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Review: ‘Communications from superior galactic communities’ by Ronald Bracewell

[This post is the second in a series exploring major works in the field of space archaeology. Read the first part here.] In 1959, Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison proposed what would become the mainstream strategy of the modern search for extraterrestrial intelligence: scanning for interstellar radio signals intentionally beamed towards the Solar system by advanced civilisations. Ronald Bracewell of Stanford University, however, questioned some of the assumptions on which the nascent SETI program was founded: that interstellar communication was only practical using electromagnetic waves; that civilisations would transmit ‘on spec’ over geological timespans; and that a civilisation would be close enough that we would be among its targets. In late May, 1960, Nature published his response, ‘Communications from Superior Galactic Communities‘ (paywalled). In it, he suggested that a civilisation might ‘spray some number of suitable … Read entire article »

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Review: ‘Searching for interstellar communications’, by Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison

[This post is the first in a series exploring major works in the field of space archaeology. The next will be more artefact-based, but it was important to begin with the origin of SETI itself.] On 19 September 1959, the modern search for extraterrestrial intelligence was born with the publication in the prestigious journal Nature of an article by Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison of Cornell University. The piece, ‘Searching for interstellar communications,’ proposed a search of nearby sun-like stars for microwave radio signals on the 21-centimeter hydrogen line. You can read the article online at the (paywalled) Nature archive, or for free here and here. It’s quite short, go read! Welcome back! For such a brief article, there’s a lot to think about. First of all, it’s remarkable to see the seeds of … Read entire article »

Filed under: Reviews