June 1, 2017 4:03 pm

Friday, Neil deGrasse Tyson Searches for Extraterrestrial Intelligence with the SETI Institute’s Jill Tarter

Are we alone? This question has been around for all of humanity. On this week’s StarTalk Radio podcast, Neil deGrasse Tyson sits down with Jill Tarter, former director of the SETI Institute, the leaders in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. In-studio Neil is joined by comic co-host Michael Ian Black, and StarTalk All-Stars host and SETI Institute Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak, along with neuroscientist Lori Marino, data journalist Mona Chalabi, and Bill Nye.

You’ll hear Neil and company discuss the film Contact, Proxima b, the Drake equation, mysterious signals we’ve received in the past, artificial intelligence, and much, much, more.

Photo of the ATA Telescope Array at Hat Creek, California, taken by Seth Shostak, Sr. Astronomer of the SETI Institute

Antennas of the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) in Hat Creek, California, a joint project of the SETI Institute and the Radio Astronomy Lab at the University of California, Berkeley. Credit: Seth Shostak, SETI Institute.

One of the main themes throughout the episode is the question of whether or not humans should proactively send out our own signals (as opposed to the transmissions we’ve been sending out to the universe since the development of radio and television). At the moment, we are currently just listening for signals from extraterrestrial life, and the debate over sending out our own “Here We Are” message is fervent.

As Jill points out in the episode, transmission is a long-term strategy and humans haven’t been around long enough to start sending our own transmissions. But, would it hurt to start now? Although the likelihood of sending a transmission and an extraterrestrial receiving it at the exact right time when they are looking in the exact right place is astronomically low, just getting our message out surely isn’t a bad thing, right?

Stephen Hawking thinks otherwise. He thinks sending signals to aliens can put humanity in danger. However, Neil thinks the opposite, and explains why in this episode. Like Neil, I am optimistic about sending signals out into the universe. The universe is a hostile place but it’s also a place of wonder, excitement, and the unknown, a place where new frontiers, and maybe intelligent extraterrestrials, await.

Do you think humans should send signals out? Let us know in the comments of the blog post.

Please join us tomorrow night for The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence at 7pm EDT right here on our website, as well as on iTunes Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and TuneIn. And if you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Ian Mullen

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