The Five Ages

The current state of the distant future

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Fifty years on, with the commisioning of the Allen Telescope Array, the seti enterprise continues to be long radio.

From an unscientific perspective, though, radio seems to be on the way out. I do listen to NPR all the time while I’m driving around, but the KUSP transmitter is, I believe, rather low-power. The pledge drives generally seem to fall short of their goals. Certainly, KUSP is less powerful than the 140-mile distant WLS transmitter that I tuned into with my clock radio every night in 7th grade while doing my homework.

When I moved away from Illinois, I didn’t take my clock radio.

By 1800, the mathematical sophistication evident in Laplace’s Mécanique Céleste was more than sufficient to support a profound understanding of Maxwell’s equations. The equations themselves, however, came more than fifty years later, and what might qualify as the first radio broadcasts came in the 1890s. Nearly seventy years then elapsed before the advent of interstellar seti.

Speculation of the day: we’ve got the mathematical sophistication to understand the actual mechanism of communication, but we don’t yet know the physics, and we certainly don’t have the technology.


Written by Greg Laughlin

January 3, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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