Episode 18: It’s Probably Not Aliens This Time But It’s Gotta Be Aliens Sometime

Image: “This ultraviolet image, captured by NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) Ahead spacecraft on February 12, 2010, shows solar storms brewing in two active areas of the Sun.” (Source: NASA)

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This episode inspired by “A Signal from Proxima Centauri?” (SETI Institute, from December 2020).

A story in Britain’s Guardian newspaper today (December 18) reports that astronomers with the Breakthrough Listen Project – the comprehensive radio SETI search being run out of the University of California at Berkeley – has detected radio emissions from the direction of Proxima Centauri. That’s the closest star system to us, a mere 4.2 light-years away, and it’s known to be accompanied by at least two planets.

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But does this mean that SETI researchers have finally stumbled upon their holy grail, a radio emission that could only come from a deliberately constructed transmitter on another world? It’s possible, of course. But the Breakthrough Listen folk are careful not to indulge in any chest beating until the signal is subjected to additional observations.


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Transcript

Charles 0:25
Hello, this is Assigned Scientist at Bachelors, the only science podcast I know about with no cis people allowed. I’m Charles and I’m an entomologist.

Tessa 0:33
And I’m Tessa and I’m an astrobiologist.

Charles 0:36
And today it’s just the two of us and Tessa, what are we talking about?

Tessa 0:40
We are going to be talking about looking for signs of extraterrestrial technology, or as it’s referred to in the field, Techno signatures.

Charles 0:48
I want to, I want to, I want to preface this conversation again, with what I say every time we get into astrobiology, which is that, and I don’t think this, but astrobiology does very much sound like a fake job, for a science fiction person.

Tessa 1:06
I mean, not gonna lie. That’s one of the reasons I do it. I like being able to wake up every morning and feel like, you know, I am an alien hunter who essentially switched genders. I am literally a protagonist of like a 1970s New Wave sci fi novel. And that’s how I like my life.

Charles 1:23
So why are we talking about this today?

Tessa 1:25
It’s a topic that’s been getting more press in the last few years, and especially in the last month or so, because as some of our listeners may have heard, there was a report that got leaked, that a mysterious signal, which may or may not have originated from an intelligence, whether that intelligence is extraterrestrial or from Earth is not yet been determined, was detected by a group doing observations of Proxima Centauri, which is conveniently enough, the closest star to us he middling 4.3 light years away, which is still very, very, very far. But as Galactus distances go pretty close by For starters, let me just preface this by saying was it aliens? Probably not. But it is definitely an on signal and we are still trying to figure out what it could have been.

Charles 2:16
To begin with, I would ask what made it like how would you know something was a weird signal?

Tessa 2:22
That is a very good question. First off, it was a strong signal that occurred only in a very narrow frequency band. Usually when you’re looking at radio emissions from astrophysical objects, stars, black holes, pulsars, various other ionized high energy phenomenon, whatever you want to call it, they spew out radio emissions over a wide range of frequencies, because nature generally doesn’t really do narrow band frequencies when you’re just you know, having stars crashed together or whatever is generating the radio frequency. So for us to receive the signal with this narrow of a frequency band is really unusual you own most only see that in technological radio sources, because as humans, we like to make our radio transmissions more efficient, which means only transmitting whatever it is we’re transmitting on a very narrow frequency instead of just like blasting it out on all sorts of different frequencies. It’s why when you tune your car radio, each station has its assigned frequency instead of just one station just blasting it out. On every frequency.

Charles 3:27
What were they looking for?

Tessa 3:29
What they were originally looking for was actually signs of stellar flares on the star Proxima Centauri, and this is of interest because Proxima Centauri is known to have at least one exoplanet that is approximately in the orbital region around the star that would allow it to be habitable, or at the very least, theoretically would allow liquid water to exist on its surface, which is obviously pretty exciting. Since again, it’s in our backyard and potentially habitable planet relatively nearby, it would be really cool.

Charles 3:59
Just to interject, this is kind of related but only kind of why are we so fixed on water as a groundwork for life? Like why do we assume that water elsewhere would be as important as water is to us?

Tessa 4:15
That is a very good question. So for starters on earth, water is obviously really important to our biology, but partially it’s also because it has some physical properties which mean it’s very useful if you want to have biochemistry happening. It is very good at dissolving polar compounds but also very good at repelling nonpolar compounds. So you can do chemical separation relatively easily due to the hydrogen bonding. It has useful things like surface tension, which nonpolar fluids don’t have a strongly also due to its geometry. And again, the hydrogen bonding – it’s liquid over a vast range of temperature ranges and it also gets less than as it gets colder, which is useful because it means ice floats to the top of a body of water. Instead of sinking to the bottom in which if that were the case, and this does happen, I think for ammonia for example, you end up with a situation where top layer freezes it goes to the bottom where it’s even colder and stays frozen. The next layer up then freezes and sinks to the bottom where it stays colder and stays frozen. Before you know it, your entire oceans are frozen. So the fact that water doesn’t do that is very handy. With that said, have there been discussions about other potential fluids that life could use instead? Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, ammonia has been discussed liquid methane for very cold planets, like Saturn’s moon Titan has been discussed a lot, even extreme cases, like liquid sulfuric acid, or liquid fluorine or chloric acid rather. So basically, you could have other solvents to host your biology. But water does have some properties, which make it particularly good.

Charles 5:48
Why do we need a liquid to begin with?

Tessa 5:51
You can theoretically have life in either a solid state or an gaseous phase. But in practice, with gaseous phase, things are moving around too quickly for a lot of the more interesting chemical reactions to occur. And for solid state, you have the exact opposite problem, everything is not moving enough, it’s all kind of stuck in place. So your chemical activity is very limited. Again, it’s possible you could have life in the solid phase or the gaseous phase. But liquid phase seems to be sort of, you know, the Goldilocks perfect intermediary between stuff moving around too much and stuff not moving around at all.

Charles 6:27
To bring it back, as always, to philosophy of science – We talked in a previous episode, actually the episode that we did on TNG, “The Chase,” on whether there are laws of biology. And I think in terms of life on Earth, that’s, I think it’s ultimately not that interesting of a question because we can observe all the life that we have on Earth. But in terms of trying to think about how life could exist elsewhere in the universe. That’s sort of like the interface between the possibilities of life and the limitations of chemistry and physics that are theoretically constant throughout the universe is very interesting.

Tessa 7:14
And I mean, honestly, that’s one of the reasons I take the approach that I do with the stuff I’m doing for my dissertation research is because we’re hoping that if we can find some of those like universal laws and ways of detecting them, statistically, if we do find something that uses plasma instead of water as its primary solvent, we’ll be able to like actually figure out that it’s there. Mm hmm.

Charles 7:34
So that was a fun tangent about liquids. So back to technosignatures and what those researchers were looking for…

Tessa 7:41
Proxima Centauri B, the planet may potentially be in the right zone temperature wise in terms of distance from its sun that it could support liquid water maybe Now the tricky thing with Proxima Centauri is that it’s what’s called a red dwarf star, which is a class of stars that are much cooler and much smaller than the sun, they tend to be a sort of dull red color, which is why they’re called red dwarfs. And because they’re cooler, the planets need to orbit much more closely to their star to maintain earth like temperatures at their surface, that in itself isn’t necessarily a problem. However, the reason that these researchers were monitoring Proxima Centauri is because red dwarf stars while they do tend to be cooler and dimmer than stars like our Sun, they are also known pretty well for having occasional violent outbursts of activity, like the sort of flares we see from our sun but much larger and much more intense.

And what they were listening for was not only for the signs of a flare occurring, but also for what’s called a coronal mass ejection, which occurs with on our star often company solar flares. And it’s basically a release of a huge amount of very, very energetic particles, you know, atomic nuclei, accelerated atoms, etc. And obviously, being exposed to that directly would not be great for almost any sort of living organism we can think of. So they were trying to detect if the flares on Proxima Centauri which had been detected visually, using very, very powerful telescopes were also accompanied by these coronal mass ejections, which usually produce large amounts of radio waves in addition to producing all these really energetic particles. And interestingly, one of the things they detected it was Yes, the star Proxima Centauri does admit these coronal mass ejections pretty much on a monthly basis.

And they did detect the radio waves from those coronal mass ejections, which suggests that you know, if the signal came from outer space, it may not have come from the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri since, again, on a monthly basis, that planet which is much much closer to its host star than the Earth is to the sun because again, it’s a much cooler dimmer star is going to be getting warped By these waves of super charged energetic particles, which will just radiate the heck out of anything in their path, and actually that was a news release, like about a week before the weird signal got leaked to the press was they were only reporting that yeah, it turns out the space weather for Proxima Centauri B is not great for life. So that anyways, that was the original reason why they were studying the star in particular,

Charles 10:26
For a brief interjection, are exoplanets just planets that basically aren’t… here?

Tessa 10:34
Yes, an exoplanet is any planet that is not orbiting our star.

Charles 10:39
And what is the, like, working… because I know a lot of people are still performatively upset about Pluto getting demoted, like what is the working definition of what makes a planet?

Tessa 10:48
A planet is an object that is large enough to have accreted under gravity and which is not orbiting another planet, because then it would be a moon, and which is also large enough to I believe the term for it is cleared its orbit, which basically means it’s the gravitationally dominant force in its orbit, and it’s cleared out all the other debris that could be there, you know, asteroids, chunks of comets, whatever. And the fact that Pluto hasn’t done that, because it’s really, really small is one of the reasons why I got demoted from the planet.

Charles 11:21
Hmm, let’s take a moment – how do you, how did you respond emotionally to that announcement?

Tessa 11:26
Honestly, like it had been Pluto had kind of had it coming because there’d been a lot of debate about whether or not it was really a planet like yours beforehand, so I wasn’t too too surprised. And also, the other part of the problem is that there are a lot of other planets a lot of other outer solar system bodies that had been discovered in the years leading up to Pluto’s demotions, which were about the same size, and more or less the same orbit as Pluto. In some cases, they were bigger, which meant if Pluto was a planet, then all of them were a planet. And all of a sudden, instead of having eight or nine planets, we had like 25. So that was also I think, one of the more pragmatic reasons they decided to get Pluto the boot whether or not that’s fair, I don’t know. But that was one of the reasons they did it.

Charles 12:06
This is actually not this isn’t technically what this episode is supposed to be about. But I’m actually now fascinated with this whole situation. Because when I was born, they didn’t say it’s a girl or it’s a boy, they said, Oh, this is good. This nerd is gonna be a taxonomist. And I am obsessed with categorization systems, because it’s interesting, like why did it take so long for them to be like, Oh, this this isn’t? Like how did was it new technology that let them discover all these other objects that would have either expanded planets or demoted Pluto?

Tessa 12:40
Yeah, that’s exactly what happened is that essentially, the optical detectors on telescopes became sensitive enough that they were able to detect these very, very distant very, very faint objects. Because you know, we’re talking about something that’s like, smaller than the Earth, Moon by considerable margin hundreds, sometimes 1000s of times further from us, and the earth is from the sun. So there they are way out there.

Charles 13:04
So is the only reason that we can see Pluto so easily because of its proximity?

Tessa 13:08
Yes, it’s one of the closest of the sort of these sort of distant solar objects.

Charles 13:14
When Pluto got demoted there was a lot of this generalized gnashing of teeth and wailing and lamenting in the streets, you know, real lamentations. What was the like, professional reaction to it? Was it a lot of, you know, yeah, or were there people in space stuff who were also upset about it?

Tessa 13:34
Two answers to that. It depends on what they were working on. And sort of what their professional opinion was on small solar body objects in general. We had people like Mike Brown, who literally titled his autobiography, why I killed Pluto and why it had it coming. On the other hand, I do know folks who work at the Percival Lowell Observatory up in Flagstaff, which is named after the person who discovered Pluto, who are very upset about it.

Charles 13:59
So it was… so we haven’t just known about Pluto for all time?

Tessa 14:02
Yeah, no, it was actually only discovered in the 1930s. Late 1920s, early 1930s.

Charles 14:11
That’s wild. I had no idea. Wow. Well, then this leads to the question of why are we fixated on planets as a potential source of life when it sounds like this is a taxonomy, this is basically a category that is as much about the reality of the characteristics of the objects as it is about what we want to count within that category.

Tessa 14:36
I mean, the reason we’ve been focusing on planets honestly is more of a practical one, and that we know how to detect planets. We’re getting to the point that we can make more direct observations of them both within our solar system and elsewhere, and it’s just basically easier to do then, you know, looking for more exotic life in clouds of interstellar dust or what have you.

Charles 14:57
So are people also looking at, like, moons?

Tessa 15:00
Oh yeah, exomoons is actually a whole thing.

Charles 15:02
Well there you go, people gotta step up and bring exomoons more explicitly to the party, because all I’ve been hearing about is exoplanets.

Tessa 15:10
The problem with them is that they’re harder to detect. Because not only do you have to filter out all the light from the host star have the planet that the moon is orbiting, you then have to filter out the planet itself, and then just isolate the moon. But yes, people have thought a lot about it and are looking into it.

Charles 15:26
Well, then what is the actual technological process of detecting all of these far off universal objects?

Tessa 15:34
It depends on what wavelength of light you’re looking in, for most of them. So pretty much anything that’s closer to visible light than it is to radio waves, you use a telescope.

Charles 15:44
And we’ll just interject briefly for people. Like imagine that you’re talking to my dad, who’s a smart guy, shout out to my dad, but his advanced degrees are all in theology. Gotcha.

Tessa 15:57
So objects in the universe, stars, fires, light bulbs all give off electromagnetic radiation, the frequency of that electromagnetic radiation will influence how it interacts with the manner around it, the frequency of electromagnetic radiation that probably our Western, our listeners are most familiar with is going to be visible light, which is

Charles 16:21
I see visible light every day of my life.

Tessa 16:24
Yes, so you know, you have visible light. But there’s more to it than that. If you go a bit higher frequency, like you start getting ultraviolet light, higher, still, you get into stuff like x rays, or gamma rays, which are useful if you’re trying to look at your bones, but not really useful. If you’re trying to just look at things period going the other direction, as you get light with lower frequencies, you get into stuff like microwaves, and eventually two radio waves, which have extremely low frequencies and very long wavelengths, but they’re all part of the same phenomenon. They’re all different types of electromagnetic radiation, the only thing that changes is their frequency, because they interact with matter in different ways that changes how, as an astronomer, you would want to text them for light, and ultraviolet light and infrared light. and to a lesser extent, for gamma ray and X ray, you basically build a telescope, you build something that’s going to reflect a lot of light into a small area, and basically concentrate that light, usually it’s using magnifying lenses, or in most modern telescopes using arrays of mirrors, because mirrors can be built much bigger than you can build magnifying glasses, essentially.

Charles 17:43
Well, I’m curious, how did the researchers present this information?

Tessa 20:31
Well, it got leaked to the British press, because of course it did. But they basically said, this is really weird, it’s probably not aliens, odds are, it’s probably from a terrestrial source somehow, even though I will note that the frequency that it was measured on is not one that’s used very much by human communication systems, which is also weird, but you know, who knows, there could be like a military spy site that’s taking advantage of that, and broadcasting on this obscure frequency. The other thing is that the frequency of it does change slightly over the five times it was observed, because one of the cool things about that is about the signals that they’ve observed it repeatedly during the observation window, which also hasn’t happened in the past when they’ve had these weird anomalous signals. Usually, they are measured once and then you never see them again. So you can’t really do any follow up on them.

Charles 21:27
I mean, if I were a cynic coming in, my first thought would be technological error.

Tessa 22:05
That has happened there was rather notoriously an observatory that was getting very, very weird signals on the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum. And they’re trying to figure out, you know, what’s causing this as some sort of weird phenomenon till someone realized they would only ever show up during lunch hour. And they realized what they were picking up was leakage from the microwave and the break room.

Charles 22:30
God, wouldn’t that be so embarrassing? Yep. Wow. broadening out our view to techno signatures more generally. Again, if I were to come in as a skeptic, I would say that it seems an extreme example of folly to think that we would be able to find not only life in the universe, but life that uses technology in a way that is familiar to us.

Tessa 22:56
So that’s actually something else I was going to bring up. Because honestly, this is when dealing with that problem is actually when techno signatures as a subfield gets really fascinating. Because Yeah, statistically, it’s unlikely that a any intelligent civilization is going to be about the same age as our own. And using the exact same technology as we are just because the universe and the galaxy are very large places and the universe, the galaxy has been habitable for a long time.

Charles 23:24
Arguably, I would say, the universe is the biggest place.

Tessa 23:27
It, you would be correct in that. So yeah, it’s statistically really unlikely that we’d be detecting a civilization that’s at the exact same technological levels we are. And as you say, using technology in the same way we are, particularly since even here on Earth over the last 50 years or so we’ve actually shifted away from using sort of the high power broadcasts of radio waves, because we’ve been switching to stuff like fiber optics, instead, it’s been suggested that maybe an explanation for why we haven’t picked up any intelligent radio emissions from other civilizations is because you only produce detectable radio waves for a relatively short amount of time, you know, maybe 100 200 years in case of our civilization before you move to more efficient, less wasteful, communications technology.

But beyond that, you know, statistically, it’s more likely we would be trying to find civilizations that are much much older than ours. 1000s 10s of 1000s, probably millions or even billions of years, more advanced than ours are, or at least have been around for, you know, millions, potentially billions of years. And to assume that they’re going to be using radio technology the same way we are is I agree, really unwarranted. I don’t even think that’s a cynical thing to say. I think that’s just a realistic thing to say. And in my opinion, the most exciting research in the field of techno signatures is actually thinking about how to find those sorts of civilizations, because presumably assuming that they haven’t either destroyed themselves or stagnated technologically for some reason, the energies and scales. They could be working with may actually make it difficult for us to differentiate them from astrophysical phenomenon. Fortunately, though, there are at least a couple efforts, I found out about the summer at a conference specifically on techno signatures that are trying to do just that

Charles 25:16
Speak more on that.

Tessa 25:17
I’m glad you asked me to. So first one is still under development, but it’s by a graduate student by the name of Sophia Shaikh, who was also involved in the Proxima be weird radio signal discovery, she’s actually been getting interviewed by a number of media outlets about it, she has been in her spare time looking at figuring out what the gravitational wave emissions would be of moving extremely large objects in linear directions and accelerating them. And to backtrack a little bit. Essentially, if you move a large enough object around and I’m talking about something about like, as heavy as our sun is or heavier, you actually generate ripples in space time itself, due to just the amount of mass and the gravity that it has getting moved around. And what she’s trying to do is determine if it would be possible to detect if someone or something was moving, say something about the mass of our solar system in a straight line and accelerating it, which is something that is very, very unlikely to happen just by itself naturally, and presumably, would be a sign of a very advanced technological civilization. Um, so basically, she’s looking for warp signatures.

Charles 26:33
Ah, see, now, you know, you’re speaking… Star Trek is the only prism through which I can understand space.

Tessa 26:41
And then there was another project, and this one is a citizen science project. But there’s another another effort that I learned about, which I think is really cool, because it’s a citizen science project that anyone can potentially contribute to, and that is Vasco or the vanishing and appearing stars over a century of observations project. What this is, is that it’s a group of researchers who are poring over archival astronomy data. So basically, you know, over the past century or so of observations, people took a lot of photographs of what they saw through their telescopes. When I was doing my undergrad at University of Virginia, and the observatory, where we did our How to be an astronomer classes. In the basement, there was a room that was just filled to the brim with glass plates. And then later on, you know, more modern silver nitrate or other photographic media of stars, because they’d been using them to do astronomical analysis back then, before they had computers, you know, you’d expose a glass plate and get a picture of the star you’re looking at. And then you could make measurements on that. So anyway, we have this wealth of archival data and what they’re doing.

And you know, this is where anyone who’s interested can join in because they need citizen science volunteers for this and can be done digitally, it’s all online is to go through and compare the old archival photos with ones that have been taken more recently. And what they’re looking for is stars that weren’t in the old photos, but are there now, or stars that were in the old photos, but aren’t there now that have vanished? And I mean, the general assumption is that if something like that has occurred, you know, if a star has disappeared completely in a relatively short amount of time, you know, we’re talking decades to a century which, especially in the astrophysical realm is exceedingly short amount of time, something very weird is going on. The default assumption is that something very strange astrophysical it could be going on, you know, their hypothesis about failed supernova or trends in phenomenon, light sources. But another thing that could be happening is that, you know, an advanced civilization has built a Dyson sphere, you know, a huge structure around the star so they could capture 100% of its solar energy output. And that’s why it’s no longer visible, at least in the same spectrum.

Charles 28:54
Are there examples of stars that have been mysteriously appeared or disappeared?

Tessa 28:59
Apparently, there are, there aren’t very many of them. But looking at the website, they found at least 100 that they’re doing follow ups on to find out what the deal is. They’re mostly red dwarf stars, they either disappeared, or have appeared. And it’s possible that it could have just been one of those extremely bright solar flares I was talking about earlier. But you know, there could be something even stranger going on? We don’t know yet. So but yes, I have found at least a few which just disappeared or appeared out of nowhere.

Charles 29:26
So what are you… we don’t do Zoom, but imagine me resting my chin on my little hands, peering – well, not into your eyes, because I don’t like making eye contact with people. But what what is all of this mean, to you?

Tessa 29:38
I think it’s really exciting, if for no other reason than people are starting to think about what civilizations that you know, are a million years older or more could be like, and I don’t even know if those civilizations necessarily exist or there’ll be anything at all, like we predict they will be. But I think it’s good that people are being encouraged to be creative to think about futures, not for just a civilizations, but for our own civilization that the world as we currently experienced it, and as we currently live in it, as our society is currently set up probably isn’t going to be the case forever. And that, you know, what might it look like 100 years down the road or 1000 years down the road or even further.

Charles 30:16
So okay, so we do you have anything else on this topic that you want to say?

Tessa 30:24
For the last bit, the other thing that was discussed at this conference, which got a little weird, was also there is at least one group of people who are looking for what they refer to, well, let me backtrack, there are people who are looking for techno signatures within our solar system, which is pretty wild. But basically, you know, in 2001, A Space Odyssey where they found the obelisk on the moon, or the monolith on the moon, they’re basically looking for that, and like, mostly not because they necessarily think it’s gonna be there or not, but mostly because it’s low hanging fruit, it’s nearby, we might as well check, you know, go because you never know. And I mean, for example, on the moon, we’ve got tons of surface image data from various satellites we’ve sent around the moon doesn’t take that much for someone to just to go through it either by hand or using machine learning algorithms, to see if there’s anything weird there that isn’t supposed to be there. And obviously, so far, they haven’t found anything. But you know, again, you never know unless you look.

And there have also been discussions of looking at certain points in sort of high Earth orbit, which are very, very stable, gravitationally speaking over very long periods of time. As you know, if you were an intelligent civilization and wanted to leave a memento for any civilization that arose on our planet, that’s where you would leave it because it would be guaranteed to stay there for a very long time. And so, you know, again, I don’t think it’s particularly particularly likely that they’ll find anything, but I’m glad that people are at least checking and seeing because it would be really unfortunate if it turns out you know, there’s a welcoming card from the Galactic Alliance in Lagrange point, one between the Earth and the Moon, and we just never thought to look for it or whatever, you know.

Charles 32:02
They don’t want to come all the way, they want to just very politely wait on the door.

Tessa 32:07
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Charles 32:08
Taking on the appearance… pulling on, you know, my skeptic’s cloak again, on one hand searching like the moon sounds. So like just saying it out loud. sounds silly, because I can very much imagine somebody being like, we don’t have food to feed the troops or whatever. And we’ll just being like, this seems like a waste of a limited amount of money. On the other hand, though, if there were signals on the moon, and we didn’t see them, because we were looking at, you know, the next galaxy across the way, that would be very embarrassing.

Tessa 32:40
Yeah, exactly. So at the very least, we can say face with that said, there’s a small fraction of those people who are looking for what has been termed near Earth techno signatures, which is where things get weird, because they’re basically looking for UFOs. This is where things get weird.

Charles 32:57
Yeah, it wasn’t weird before. But now, it’s weird.

Tessa 33:00
Like, even by astrobiology standards, this is when things get a little strange. And I mean, they are all very rational people. And they tend to be pretty skeptical. And they don’t even refer to them as UFOs. They refer to them as UAPs, unexplained aerial or atmospheric phenomenon, because it probably isn’t alien spacecraft, it’s probably just some weird atmospheric stuff we don’t understand yet or you know, has a mundane explanation. And we just don’t have enough data to know what that explanation is.

But at the conferences that I was at, there was at least one person saying we should use image data from Google Maps, and try to correlate it with UFO sightings to see if we can get more data on whatever it was that happened. I guess if the data is there, you might as well look, but I feel like there are just so many unwarranted assumptions that are going into the decision to look in the first place have a there was a UFO sighting that be it must be legitimate. And see, if we look on satellite data, we’ll find more evidence of it. And D the fact that you’re bringing this up at an astrobiology conferences at all, it means there’s an implicit assumption that extra organisms could be involved.

Charles 34:07
Well, I have two things. First, is what you’re telling me is that the Venn diagram between astrobiology as like an academic discipline, and alien conferences where people, like, get really excited about owls… there is a small but an existing amount of overlap.

Tessa 34:27
Yes, it is small, as you say, but it does exist, for better or for worse.

Charles 34:32
Okay, it seems like you can justify a lot of stuff in astrobiology by sort of a gussied up version of the poster that was in every classroom and public school, “aim for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars,” where you’re aiming for the moon of extraterrestrial life, but largely landing among the stars of, Well, there’s still some weird thing that we’re learning about.

Tessa 35:01
Yeah, and I mean, that’s, again, a lot of how we justify it. And a lot of people who are doing this sort of study for looking for technical interest, it isn’t even necessarily, like their main area of of research of interest are usually focused on more conventional astrophysical phenomena or on exoplanets, but you know, the data that they’re looking through also, potentially, you know, if you find certain things could indicate the existence of very advanced civilizations, so you know, you might as well look for it if you’re going through the data anyways.

Charles 35:29
If you want to find me online, I am on Twitter @cockroacharles.

Tessa 35:33
And you can find me on Twitter @spacermase.

Charles 35:39
And you can find the show on twitter @ASABpod or at our website where we post show notes and transcripts for every episode, asabpodcast.com.

Tessa 35:48
And until next time, keep on sciencing.

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