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Thursday, November 09, 2017

As America has turned away from searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, China has built the world's largest radio dish for precisely that purpose...




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Last January, the Chinese Academy of Sciences invited Liu Cixin, China's preeminent science-fiction writer, to visit its new state-of-the-art radio dish in the country's southwest. Almost twice as wide as the dish at America's Arecibo Observatory, in the Puerto Rican jungle, the new Chinese dish is the largest in the world, if not the universe. Though it is sensitive enough to detect spy satellites even when they're not broadcasting, its main uses will be scientific, including an unusual one: The dish is Earth's first flagship observatory custom-built to listen for a message from an extraterrestrial intelligence. If such a sign comes down from the heavens during the next decade, China may well hear it first.

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (seti) is often derided as a kind of religious mysticism, even within the scientific community. Nearly a quarter century ago, the United States Congress defunded America's seti program with a budget amendment proposed by Senator Richard Bryan of Nevada, who said he hoped it would "be the end of Martian-hunting season at the taxpayer's expense." That's one reason it is China, and not the United States, that has built the first world-class radio observatory with SETI as a core scientific goal.


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"Even if no geopolitical strife ensued, humans would certainly experience a radical cultural transformation, as every belief system on Earth grappled with the bare fact of first contact," writes Andersen.

Buddhists would get off easy: Their faith already assumes an infinite universe of untold antiquity, its every corner alive with the vibrating energies of living beings. The Hindu cosmos is similarly grand and teeming. The Koran references Allah's "creation of the heavens and the earth, and the living creatures that He has scattered through them." Jews believe that God's power has no limits, certainly none that would restrain his creative powers to this planet's cosmically small surface.

Christianity might have it tougher. There is a debate in contemporary Christian theology as to whether Christ's salvation extends to every soul that exists in the wider universe, or whether the sin-tainted inhabitants of distant planets require their own divine interventions. The Vatican is especially keen to massage extraterrestrial life into its doctrine, perhaps sensing that another scientific revolution may be imminent. The shameful persecution of Galileo is still fresh in its long institutional memory.

#1 | Posted by Doc_Sarvis at 2017-11-09 08:40 AM | Reply


Secular humanists won't be spared a sobering intellectual reckoning with first contact. Copernicus removed Earth from the center of the universe, and Darwin yanked humans down into the muck with the rest of the animal kingdom. But even within this framework, human beings have continued to regard ourselves as nature's pinnacle. We have continued treating "lower" creatures with great cruelty. We have marveled that existence itself was authored in such a way as to generate, from the simplest materials and axioms, beings like us. We have flattered ourselves that we are, in the words of Carl Sagan, "the universe's way of knowing itself." These are secular ways of saying we are made in the image of God.

We may be humbled to one day find ourselves joined, across the distance of stars, to a more ancient web of minds, fellow travelers in the long journey of time. We may receive from them an education in the real history of civilizations, young, old, and extinct. We may be introduced to galactic-scale artworks, borne of million-year traditions. We may be asked to participate in scientific observations that can be carried out only by multiple civilizations, separated by hundreds of light-years. Observations of this scope may disclose aspects of nature that we cannot now fathom. We may come to know a new metaphysics. If we're lucky, we will come to know a new ethics. We'll emerge from our existential shock feeling newly alive to our shared humanity. The first light to reach us in this dark forest may illuminate our home world too.

#2 | Posted by Doc_Sarvis at 2017-11-09 08:41 AM | Reply

First, they'll reverse engineer all the technology and make copies cheaper than the aliens can.

Second, they'll show the aliens a map claimed to be from the Chin Dynasty that show that a Chinese Admiral had previously discovered their planet and claim that it is Chinese territory. They will move a few asteroids into orbit around the planet and build airbases on them.

Third, the aliens will discover the joys of fentanyl and while they're distracted, the Chinese will make some sweetheart trade deals.

#3 | Posted by MUSTANG at 2017-11-09 08:45 AM | Reply | Funny: 1

Christianity might have it tougher.

#1 | Posted by Doc_Sarvis at

Some Christians will have it tougher. Christianity won't.

#4 | Posted by Zed at 2017-11-09 08:54 AM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

China huh?

#5 | Posted by fresno500 at 2017-11-09 09:22 AM | Reply

Wang Chung tonight.

#6 | Posted by LauraMohr at 2017-11-09 09:29 AM | Reply

Apropos: The Three Body Problem .... fascinating perspective on the whole extraterrestrial exploration/exploitation problem

#7 | Posted by AndreaMackris at 2017-11-09 09:42 AM | Reply

China huh?

#5 | Posted by fresno500

I guess that would be the end of the earth.

#8 | Posted by Sniper at 2017-11-09 02:04 PM | Reply

Face it..Canada will get first contact....and it will be in the middle of nowhere...most likely Saskatchewan....and the Premier there will welcome them in earnest before our hummin and hawin frog PM shows up to dazzle them with his star wars socks.

#9 | Posted by ghoti at 2017-11-11 11:13 AM | Reply

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