Advertisement

Are We Alone in the Universe? (The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence)

  • Barry B. Luokkala
Chapter
Part of the Science and Fiction book series (SCIFICT)

Abstract

The commercial towing vehicle Nostromo, en route back to Earth, with its cargo of ore and crew of seven in suspended animation, intercepts a radio signal from a planetary system along the way. The ship’s computer determines that the transmission has a very high probability of originating from an intelligent civilization. This triggers an override of the default programming to return home: the computer begins to awaken the crew from their sleep and deviates from its original course to investigate. At first unaware of the change in plans, the crew go about their normal routines, under the very reasonable assumption that they have completed their journey and are about to dock at Earth. They soon discover that they are only about half way home and are approaching an unfamiliar solar system. Most of the crew are only interested in getting their fair share of the mining profits and are annoyed at the unexpected detour. But their science officer points out a clause in their contract, which requires them to investigate any radio signal of potentially intelligent origin, on penalty of forfeiture of their shares.

References

  1. 1.
    Alien (Ridley Scott, 20th Century Fox 1979). Radio signal from an alien intelligence received by interstellar mining vessel [DVD scenes 1–6]Google Scholar

Major Considerations

  1. 2.
    Dick, S.: Life on other worlds. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1998)Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Dick, S.: Plurality of worlds. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1982)Google Scholar

Human Spaceflight Initiatives

  1. 4.
    Destination Moon (Irving Pitchel, George Pal Production 1950). Predicts a space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union seven years before the launch of Sputnik I [DVD scene 3]Google Scholar
  2. 5.
  3. 6.
  4. 7.
  5. 8.
  6. 9.
  7. 10.
  8. 11.
    Star Trek (The Original Series) – “The Devil in the Dark” (Joseph Pevney, Paramount 1967). Humans on a mining colony discover a silicon-based life form [DVD vol. 13, ep. 26, scene 5 or full episode]Google Scholar

Searching for Signs of Extraterrestrial Intelligence

  1. 12.
    Folger, T.: Contact: the day after. Sci. Am. 40+ (Jan 2011)Google Scholar
  2. 13.
    Garber, S.J.: Searching for good science: the cancellation of NASA’s SETI program. J. Br. Interplanet. Soc. 52, 3 (1999)Google Scholar
  3. 14.
    Shklovskii, I.S., Sagan, C.: Intelligent Life In the Universe, pp. 409–418. Dell Publishing Co., New York (1966)Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    NASA updated estimate of rate of star formation in the Milky Way galaxy. https://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2006/milkyway_seven.html

Finding Planets in Other Star Systems

  1. 16.
    When Worlds Collide (Rudolph Maté, Paramount 1951). Measurements of star positions yield evidence of extrasolar planets [DVD scene 2]Google Scholar
  2. 17.
    Billings, L.: In search of Alien Jupiters. Sci. Am. 313, 40 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 18.
    Cartier, K., Wright, J.T.: Strange news from another star. Sci. Am. 316, 36–41 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 19.
    Young, M.: What’s going on with Tabby’s star? It’s complicated. Sky and Telescope, June 2018Google Scholar

Conditions Necessary for Intelligent Life to Arise

  1. 20.
    The Creature from the Black Lagoon (Jack Arnold, Universal 1954). Origin and diversity of life on Earth [DVD opening scene]. Lung-fish (transitional form) [DVD scene 3]Google Scholar
  2. 21.
    Mission to Mars (Brian DePalma, Touchstone Pictures 2000). Origin and diversity of life on Earth (seeded by Martians) [DVD scene 24]Google Scholar
  3. 22.
  4. 23.
    Dune (David Lynch, Universal 1984)Google Scholar
  5. 24.
    Enterprise – “The Aenar” (Mike Vejar, Paramount 2005) [DVD season 4, episode 14]Google Scholar
  6. 25.
    Krauss, L.M.: The Physics of Star Trek (revised and updated), p. 113. Basic Books, New York (2007)Google Scholar

Cinema and the Science of the SETI Project

  1. 26.
    Contact (Robert Zemeckis, Warner Brothers 1997). Radio transmissions from Earth: age and intensity versus distance [DVD opening scene]Google Scholar
  2. 27.
    Contact (Robert Zemeckis, Warner Brothers 1997). Arecibo: largest single-dish radio telescope in the world [DVD scene 3]Google Scholar
  3. 28.
    Arecibo’s 300-meter radio telescope. http://www.naic.edu/ao/landing
  4. 29.
  5. 30.
    Contact (Robert Zemeckis, Warner Brothers 1997). Estimating the number of intelligent civilizations in the galaxy [DVD scene 6]Google Scholar
  6. 31.
    Contact (Robert Zemeckis, Warner Brothers 1997). Radio frequency of alien transmission (4.462 Ghz = “Hydrogen” × π) [DVD scene 11]Google Scholar
  7. 32.
    Lorimer, D., McLaughlin, M.: Flashes in the night. Sci. Am. 318, 42–47 (2018)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

First Contact

  1. 33.
    Men In Black (Barry Sonnenfeld, Columbia Pictures 1997). Presence of aliens on Earth regulated by government agency, and concealed from the general public [DVD scene 2]Google Scholar
  2. 34.
    Star Trek: First Contact (Jonathan Frakes, Paramount 1998). First warp flight by humans leads to first contact by the Vulcans [DVD scenes 26–30]Google Scholar
  3. 35.
    Invaders from Mars (William Cameron Menzies, Image Entertainment 1953). Alien visitors from a child’s perspective: is it real or just a dream? [DVD scenes 1, 2]Google Scholar
  4. 36.
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, Artisan 1955). Humans replaced by alien look-alikes [DVD scenes 7, 8]Google Scholar
  5. 37.
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, Columbia Pictures 1977). Abductees returned, but with no signs of ageing (special relativity) [DVD scenes 22, 23, 25]Google Scholar
  6. 38.
    Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, Xenolinguistics 2016). The challenge of cross-cultural communication with an alien species [DVD scene 7]Google Scholar
  7. 39.
    Enterprise – “Broken Bow” (Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, Paramount 2001). The universal translator has difficulty with a dialect of the Klingon language [DVD season 1, episode 1, end of scene 5]Google Scholar
  8. 40.
    Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Darmok” (Philip Lazebnik and Joe Menosky, Paramount 1991) [DVD season 5, episode 2]Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations