Legendary astronomer Frank Drake has passed away at the age of 92. Known primarily for his Drake Equation — an estimate of the probability of intelligent extraterrestrial life — he pioneered the field of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and was a noted astronomer and astrophysicist. His work and life have left an indelible mark on humanity and given hope and wonder to all our hearts.Continue reading “Legendary Astronomer Frank Drake has Passed Away”
For over sixty years, scientists have been searching the cosmos for possible signs of radio transmission that would indicate the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI). In that time, the technology and methods have matured considerably, but the greatest challenges remain. In addition to having never detected a radio signal of extraterrestrial origin, there is a wide range of possible forms that such a broadcast could take.
In short, SETI researchers must assume what a signal would look like, but without the benefit of any known examples. Recently, an international team led by the University of California Berkeley and the SETI Institute developed a new machine learning tool that simulates what a message from extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) might look like. It’s known as Setigen, an open-source library that could be a game-changer for future SETI research!Continue reading “If Aliens Were Sending us Signals, This is What They Might Look Like”
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On November 1st, 1961, a number of prominent scientists converged on the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, for a three-day conference. A year earlier, this facility had been the site of the first modern SETI experiment (Project Ozma), where famed astronomers Frank Drake and Carl Sagan used the Green Bank telescope (aka. “Big Ear”) to monitor two nearby Sun-like stars – Epsilon Eridani and Tau Ceti.
While unsuccessful, Ozma became a focal point for scientists who were interested in this burgeoning field known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). As a result, Drake and Sagan were motivated to hold the very first SETI conference, wherein the subject of looking for possible extraterrestrial radio signals would be discussed. In preparation for the meeting, Drake prepared the following heuristic equation:
N = R* x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc x L
This would come to be known as the “Drake Equation,” which is considered by many to be one of the most renowned equations in the history of science. On the sixtieth anniversary of its creation, John Gertz – a film producer, amateur astronomer, board-member with BreakThrough Listen, and the three-term former chairman of the board for the SETI Institute – argues in a recent paper that a factor by factor reconsideration is in order.Continue reading “60 Years Later, is it Time to Update the Drake Equation?”
Is there life out there in the Universe? That is a question that has plagued humanity long before we knew just how vast the Universe was – i.e. before the advent of modern astronomy. Within the 20th century – thanks to the development of modern telescopes, radio astronomy, and space observatories – multiple efforts have been made in the hopes of finding extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI).Continue reading “What is the Drake Equation?”
Leonard Nimoy played a half-alien-half-human character — Spock — who seemingly was going to live forever. He survived having his brain removed, being bitten by a deadly alien creature and other harrowing experiences. Later, he actually did give his life to save his crew but was resurrected. And he was transported through time in the Star Trek universe to spend his life across hundreds of years. But the very human Nimoy died earlier today at age 83, leaving a legacy of not just an enduring science fiction character, but the generations of scientists and explorers he inspired.
Nimoy had been hospitalized earlier in the week and his agent confirmed his death on February 27, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nimoy announced that he had the disease last year and attributed it to years of smoking, a habit he had quit nearly 30 years ago.
Nimoy was active on social media, and for the past couple of months, he seemed to be sending farewell messages to his fans with words of wisdom and sentiment that ended with “LLAP” — “live long and prosper” — a phrase made famous by Nimoy and his character Spock:
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP
— Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) February 23, 2015
So grateful for blessings. Wish the same to all. LLAP
— Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) January 1, 2015
Now, following the announcement of his passing there has been an outpouring of sentiments for Nimoy and his character on social media, with expressions of how Nimoy inspired generations to look up and reach for the final frontier.
I’m a planetary scientist bc of Star Trek. I know I’m not the only one.
— Sarah Hörst (@PlanetDr) February 27, 2015
Leonard, you lived long and prospered, and were an inspiration to me and to millions. Rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/NESJKvTepm
— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) February 27, 2015
“I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love.” -William Shatner http://t.co/U8ZN98tVYp
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) February 27, 2015
Leonard Nimoy has died. I’ve set my phaser on “weep.”
— Gary Shteyngart (@Shteyngart) February 27, 2015
Journalist Nadia Drake shared her memories and provided Universe Today with the lead image for this article:
Once upon a time, I wanted to be a poet, and among other work, my parents gave me Leonard Nimoy’s poems to read. LLAP pic.twitter.com/S7pHkgQHCS
— Nadia Drake (@slugnads) February 27, 2015
The Spock character was known for Vulcan logic and pointy ears, and Nimoy was a favorite with Star Trek fans of all ages. Nimoy not only appeared in the original Star Trek but he reprised his role in later Trek incarnations. He appeared in a total of eight Star Trek movies, and three different Star Trek series (original, animated and Star Trek: the Next Generation).
In addition to Star Trek, Nimoy appeared in “The Twilight Zone,” “Mission Impossible,” “THEM!” “The Brain Eaters,” “Sea Hunt,” “The Outer Limits,” “Get Smart,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Night Gallery,” and was host of “In Search Of.” He also wrote two autobiographies (“I Am Not Spock” and “I am Spock,”) wrote and performed on 5 albums (one was titled, “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space,”) was a photographer and poet, contributed to vocal acting, and directed 6 feature films, including “Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home,” and “Three Men and a Baby.”
He is survived by his wife, Susan, as well as two children and six grandchildren from his first marriage to Sandra Zober.
Spock has now reached the final frontier. Tonight we’ll toast his legacy of the “good of the many.”
This interview with Frank Drake — sometimes called the Father of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence – was recorded in 2012 but not released until now to celebrate the beginning of the 30th year of the SETI Institute. As interviewer Andrew Fraknoi says, “I don’t think anyone had a conversation like this that was recorded with Galileo or William Herschel or Edwin Hubble, but I get to do it with Frank Drake!”
This is a great conversation that alternates between Drake’s current work with SETI and the history of his work that led to the famous Drake Equation. Fraknoi and Drake have an interesting exchange about the value of N, which is the number of civilizations in The Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions would be detectable.
It was recorded in June 2012 at an event called SETICon, which featured a series of talks, panels, and events featuring scientists, authors, futurists, and film-makers.