The Significance of Negative SETI Results

At an August 6, 2004, symposium organized by The Planetary Society, titled The Significance of Negative SETI Results, leading SETI experts scratched their heads over the meaning of their failure to receive signals from Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

Briefly, here are their conclusions:

Bruce M. Murray (Caltech professor emeritus and chairman of the Planetary Society Board of Directors): There is no news.

Dan Werthimer (UC Berkeley, Director of Project SERENDIP and SETI@Home): We haven't done very much.

Frank Drake (SETI Institute Senior Scientist): We should search vast numbers of stars...

Guillermo Lemarchand (University of Buenos Aires): We've thus far probed only a hundred-trillionth of the search space. We still need to cover the other 99,999,999,999,999 hundred trillionths before we can say there are no alien signals to be found. (Note: For the Open SETI discussion of this issue, see Classical SETI 4: The SETI Search Space).

Seth Shostak (SETI Institute Senior Astronomer, not present but in a recent statement): We'll detect an alien communique within the next two decades.

Kent Cullers (SETI Institute Director of Research): Maybe within 100 or 200 years.

Dan Werthimer: Maybe 50 or 100 years.

Paul Horowitz (Harvard): If they really want to contact us, they can.

Dan Werthimer again: Think serendipity. We should all be looking for little glitches in our data.55

Jill Tarter, Philip Morrison, and Open SETI did not attend.

Thanks to Sky and Telescope for this information.


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