UKSRN 2014

The attendees of UKSRN2014
The attendees of UKSRN2014

Our first formal meeting took place at Birkbeck College, London on September 11 and 12th 2014.  You can see our presentation abstracts below

Talks  

Ansbro New instrumentation to detect ET presence in the Solar System
Armstrong It’s ‘easy’ to colonise the universe. What are the implications?
Baxter Who owns the Monolith? The development of policies concerning the detection of artefacts of extraterrestrial intelligence in the Solar System
Capova Interstellar communication in sociocultural perspective in context with interspecies interactions
Crawford Resolving the Fermi Paradox: zoo hypothesis or nothing?
Dartnell How to rebuild a civilisation and the implications for L
Edmondson SETI: Detection and messaging – one without the other?
Forgan Can Collimated Extraterrestrial Signals be Intercepted?
Jack Hickish Collaborative, Open-Source SETI with CASPER: The Collaboration for Astronomy Signal Processing and Electronics Research
Neal Preparing for Extraterrestrial Contact: A risk management perspective
Penny Optical SETI at St Andrews – a concept
Pinault SETI by Other Means: Seeking Clues from Interstellar Dust and the Lunar Paleoregolith
Sandberg That is not dead which can eternal lie: what are the physical constraints for the aestivation hypothesis?
Andrew Siemion Facility Radio SETI Observations
Webb Setizen Science: new directions for SETI?
Panel Future Prospects for the UKSRN and for SETI in the UK
General Discussion

Abstracts 

Name  Title and abstract 
Eammon Ansbro New instrumentation to detect ET presence in the Solar System <‘td>
Is the Solar System visited by exogenous intelligences from other planets or dimensions? If this were the case, observable signatures might be in the form of emissions, reflections, unusual thermal properties and unconventional spectra due to their surface properties.

Present telescopes with spectrographs are inadequate for a scanning survey to attempt to detect any such signatures due to their small field of view, spatial resolution, spectral resolution and the challenges of tracking an unknown trajectory following detection.

Instrumentation is proposed consisting of a survey telescope that can photometrically and spectroscopically image large areas of the sky, simultaneously distinguish potential artificial spectral signatures from natural background objects, and track any movement.

A spectrograph using a novel design approach is proposed that addresses the constraints of limited field of view and the ability to record simultaneously both visual and spectral images of one or more objects. A proof-of-concept instrument has been built which successfully demonstrates the capability of this design in recording simultaneous visual and spectral images of multiple known objects.

Stuart Armstrong It’s “easy” to colonise the universe. What are the implications?
Our earthly intuitions and metaphors are a poor guide for the rules of the universe. Just as it took very careful analysis to figure out the laws of physics, we need to be precise and specific when we project forward humanity’s potential future in the stars. And when we do that, we find that colonisation of the universe is – in cosmic terms – both easy and rapid. Moreover there are strong reasons, both internal and external, for a civilization to want to expand soon after that becomes possible. So star-spanning civilizations are likely to quickly become thousand-galaxy spanning ones.

This talk will aim to demonstrate that fact, and then to examine some of its implications, both in terms of the likelihood of alien existence, the future fate of humanity, and of the universe itself. The cosmos would likely end up getting partitioned by expanding species, giving non-trivial anthropic constraints for our observations. Indeed, most of the universe would be inhabited by species that started expanding early on – and yet the Earth is a late-comer as planets go.

Stephen Baxter Who owns the Monolith? The development of policies concerning the detection of artefacts of extraterrestrial intelligence in the Solar System
Through the SETI endeavour we have now been searching for electromagnetic signals from alien civilisations for over fifty years, without success. But what if we found, not a signal, but an artefact of extraterrestrial intelligence, somewhere on Earth or in the solar system? We ourselves have deposited relics of space probes and human activity on the Moon, Mars and elsewhere, and we have sent messages to the stars in the form of artefacts: the plaques and records on the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft. The probability of our detecting such an artefact is thus non-zero. And yet to the authors’ knowledge no publicly agreed policy concerning the discovery of such objects exists; at time of writing the only widely accepted policy is the document known as the ‘First SETI Protocol’ of 1989 which essentially guides action in the immediate aftermath of a signal detection event. The purposes of this paper are:1) to review the literature concerning the discovery of an artefact of ETI within the solar system.
2) to highlight issues, suggest precedents and propose draft policy ideas which will amount to an extension of the First SETI Protocol to cover the circumstance.The hope is that this paper will contribute to the ongoing discussion of how the human race might prepare itself for the momentous event of detection of ETI.
Klara Anna Capova Interstellar communication in sociocultural perspective in context with interspecies communication
TBD
Ian Crawford Resolving the Fermi Paradox: zoo hypothesis or nothing?
Many solutions to the Fermi Paradox have been proposed over the years, but I suggest that the only two which seem really persuasive are (1) that space-faring extraterrestrial civilisations have somehow managed to quarantine the Earth against interference for most of its history (the ‘Zoo Hypothesis’) or (2) that space-faring extraterrestrial civilisations do not exist, or have at least been very rare throughout the history of the Galaxy. I will conclude that the latter interpretation is the most plausible.
Lewis Dartnell How to rebuild a civilisation and the implications for L
This talk will discuss a few biological considerations for SETI, including the origin of life, extremophiles, and astrophysical threats to a planetary biosphere. The consequences of a collapse of civilisation will also be mentioned.
William Edmondson SETI: Detection and messaging – one without the other?
Sending an image is decodable and recoverable, but trying to send a ‘message’ is pointless. Semiotics, linguistics and anthropology show that any sort of conversation with ET is not possible. Anthropology requires co-presence; it can’t be done over the phone; a conversation with a shared language will not be possible until after we’ve reached ETI or they have reached us.
Duncan Forgan Can Collimated Extraterrestrial Signals Be Intercepted?
The Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (OSETI) attempts to detect collimated, narrowband pulses of electromagnetic radiation. These pulses may either consist of signals intentionally directed at the Earth, or signals between two star systems with a vector that unintentionally intersects the Solar System, allowing Earth to intercept the communication. But should we expect to be able to intercept these unintentional signals? And what constraints can we place upon the frequency of intelligent civilisations if we do?

I will present results from Monte Carlo Realisation simulations of interstellar communications between civilisations in the Galactic Habitable Zone using collimated beams. We measure the frequency with which beams between two stars are intercepted by a third. The interception rate increases linearly with the fraction of communicating civilisations, and as the cube of the beam opening angle. I will comment on the implications for OSETI searches being able to detect transmissions not intended for humanity.

Jack Hickish Collaborative, Open-Source SETI with CASPER: The Collaboration for Astronomy Signal Processing and Electronics Research
Over the last ten years, the Collaboration for Astronomy Signal Processing and Electronics Research (CASPER) has been working to reduce the cost and complexity of radio astronomy instrumentation. The result has been the creation of a suite of open-source hardware platforms and software tools which have been used in radio-astronomy observatories all over the world to power a variety of scientific instruments. In particular, CASPER has enabled a variety of successful SETI experiments.

To date, no CASPER-based SETI instruments have been deployed in the UK. However, several UK universities are CASPER collaboration members and over recent years have made significant investments in both hardware and design expertise. In this presentation I will give a brief overview of the CASPER collaboration’s work and their various SETI projects around the globe. I will talk about the ways in which I hope the knowledge of the CASPER community can be leveraged to encourage and enable SETI research in the UK and discuss my personal SETI aspirations, which I hope can be fulfilled with the support of other UKSRN members.

Mark Neal Preparing for extraterrestrial contact: A risk management perspective
This paper explores the risks for humanity posed by extraterrestrial life forms. Using a risk management perspective, the article examines questions of how we can evaluate extraterrestrial risks, and how – and whether – we should prepare for each risk eventuality. In order to clarify thinking about such matters, different risk scenarios are developed and examined; and the various threats analysed. Examining these scenarios, it is recognised that although such risks are small in terms of probabilities, they could result in massive social, political or existential impacts. Such scenarios, it is argued, should thus be analysed, criticised and refined; and steps taken to determine the most likely or disruptive of the risk scenarios, so that preparations may be made for such eventualities.
Alan Penny An optical search in the UK – the concept
A design study is presented for a low-cost optical SETI search in the UK. The main difficulty in undertaking a SETI search in the UK is the lack of funding and the lack of people. A design is put forward that could implement a piggy-back optical nanosecond flash search using the 1-metre telescope at St Andrews. This would undertake long (hours) observations of a mixture ofG and K stars looking for these indicators of an artificial origin. It will be much less powerful than the existing Berkeley survey and the Harvard all-sky surveys, but the long dwell times would open up a new phase space.

The design is driven by the need for ultra-low cost, both in equipment and in the call on observers.

Lewis Pinault SETI by Other Means: Seeking Clues from Interstellar Dust and the Lunar Paleoregolith
Technological civilisations achieving Earth’s present level of spacefaring capabilities may have left detectable micron-sized traces of asteroid mining and other activities dispersed through the galaxy. Recognising the cheap and wide-reaching transport possibilities, more advanced civilisations may have designed and dispersed similarly sized particles encompassing exploratory-probe growing capabilities. This talk addresses the assumptions and preliminary approaches to detecting both incidental detritus and possible probe fragments on the Moon and elsewhere in the solar system, including geological sampling challenges and citizen-science and automated search algorithms for high-resolution artefact detection.
Anders Sandberg That is not dead which can eternal lie: what are the physical constrainrs on the aestivation hypothesis?
The thermodynamics of computation make the cost of a certain amount of (irreversible) computation proportional to the temperature. As the universe cools down, one Joule of energy is worth proportionally more. Hence a civilization desiring to maximize the total amount of computation would want to use its energy endowment as late as possible: using it now means far less computation can be done. Hence an early such civilization, after expanding to gain access to enough raw materials, would settle down and wait (“aestivate”) until it becomes rational to use the resources. The aestivation hypothesis states that we are not observing any aliens since the initial expansion phase is brief and intermittent and the aestivating civilization and its infrastructure is also largely passive and compact.

The aestivation hypothesis hinges on a number of assumptions I will examine in this paper. The main goal is to find what physical and value constraints make it rational to aestivate, and see if these can be met. If they cannot, then the aestivation hypothesis is not a likely answer for the Fermi question. Conversely, assuming the truth of the hypothesis puts nontrivial constraints on what values alien civilizations would hold. The plausibility in particular hinges on how stable control a civilization can maintain over its domain over long eras, and that it is rational to not transform the domain in any radical (observable) way. The continued activity of stars and mass-loss from galaxies due to galactic winds put a strong constraint on compatible alien utility functions: the lost mass-energy must be worth less than the effort to retain them.

Andrew Siemion Facility Radio SETI Observations
I will discuss how to propose for and conduct SETI observations at national and international radio astronomy observatories, including open source software for data reduction and analysis.
Stephen Webb Setizen Science: new directions for SETI?
Although observational SETI science is in its sixth decade, the approaches used to date represent (perhaps inevitably) technically and historically biased viewpoints. The traditional radio, and more recently optical, searches for signals have been determined in large part by our civilisation’s current scientific and technological capabilities and our cultural attitudes. A less biased approach might be to adopt what Steven J. Dick calls a “Stapledonian mindset”: we could ask how the activities of extraterrestrial civilisation might manifest themselves and, in turn, how we might observe those activities. In coming years a host of new instruments, operating at a variety of wavelengths, will deluge us with data. In this talk I enquire whether we might expand SETI activities by mining this data, and in particular whether examining this data might provide a role for “setizen scientists”.
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