Monday, July 11, 2011

Intelligent life in the universe

"Hi, honey. The plane just touched down. I'll call you again when I get to the parking lot."

"Hi, honey. I'm in the car. Had to wait for my bag. I'm setting out now."

Hi, hon. I'm on the freeway. I should be home in about forty minutes."

Hi, honey. I'm stopping at the Wine Basket for a bottle or merlot. See ya in about ten minutes."

Hi, hon. I'm turning into the driveway. Be there in a sec."

The Earth hums with useless info. Twitters with inanity. IMs with imbecility.

Our planet glows like a radio star, luminous with lunacy.

I opine thusly (he said archly) because I have been reading about the Square-Kilometer Array (SKA), a gigantic radio telescope that has been on the astronomers' wish list for years and now seems to have a real chance of being built.

The SKA will use 3,000 dish antennas, each about 15 meters wide, plus other antennas. The antennas will be arranged in five spiral arms extending out from a dense central core to distances of 3,000 km. It will cost several billion dollars and will be built in the wide-open spaces of central Australia or South Africa.

And here's the deal. According to its promoters, the SKA will potentially be able to detect the equivalent of a mobile phone system within 50 light-years of Earth. If ET is out there, we are about to listen in on his chat.

Which will be interesting, I suppose. More to the point is this: If we can listen in on him, then within less than 50 years he will be listening in on us.