ARCHIVE: Signals from space aliens or random chance?

Nathon Detroit

New member
This is a bit long, I apologize in advance for that but there is no way for me to ask this question any more brief than this.

Imagine that you visiting your friend for the weekend and your friend works for the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), I am sure you are all familiar with them, they sit around all day, everyday for the last 48 years or so scanning the universe for signals that come from the darkness of space looking to see if any of these signals demonstrate the hallmarks of intelligence i.e., some type of pattern. Said in short... they search the heavens for intelligent life in the universe.

And in all those years the SETI project has had really only one "wow" moment where a signal resembled something "other" than random noise. Now of course this "wow" moment didn't really amount to much other than a few characters lined up a tad more orderly than usual. I attached the "wow" signal below so you could see the minor order in the sea of randomness.

But lets imagine that on the weekend you were visiting something much more than a "wow" moment occurred. Lets imagine that a signal was detected emanating from the depths of space that read.....

"people of earth, we would like to introduce ourselves to you we are a race of intelligent creatures that lives in a galaxy far, far away and we want to communicate to you that you are not alone in the universe."

Obviously, this message would be one of the most incredible discoveries in the history of mankind.

But what would you believe? Would you believe it was actually sent from an intelligent life source from another galaxy? Or would you believe it was merely an amazing coincidence of chance that caused a random signal to just appear to have that amazing understandable order?

What many of you have been arguing in another thread leads me to believe that you COULD NOT determine that the message was from an intelligent source and instead it was simply "bound to happen" sooner or later because of the probability of random things eventually looking ordered (by chance). In the thread I referenced ThePhy stated that a tennis ball if thrown against a brick wall enough times would occasionally "slip through" a solid brick wall every now and then simply because the atoms and molecules might line up just right. In fact, he argued that it would, and will, happen several times if the ball was thrown enough.

Notice what thePhy stated on the other thread...
For the tennis ball, the time required would be almost unimaginably long – billions of billions of times as long as our universe has existed. But guess what, that means it would have actually happened at least 624 times in the eternity that God has existed, and I guess it will happen another 19 times in the eternity you are planning on spending singing celestial hymns. As for me, I am going to find a wall in hell, and a tennis ball. I’ve got eternity to run the experiment, so things that are fantastically unlikely become dead certainties in eternity.

As to seeing MM on your screen – how faithful a rendition are you demanding? How about her dimly peeking out of a snowstorm - would that count?
Therefore ThePhy's argument is... "it's bound to happen!"

Now, I am pretty sure that a signal coming from outer space that had 40 words in a comprehensible order... (i.e., "people of earth, we would like to introduce ourselves to you we are a race of intelligent creatures that lives in a galaxy far, far away and we want to communicate to you that you are not alone in the universe.") is still FAR, FAR, FAR, more likely to occur by chance than a tennis ball passing through a brick wall or a picture of Marilyn Monroe juggling fish, accidentally generated on a computer screen by random pixels.

Therefore, I would love an honest answer from all of you to the following question.... (finally I get to my question)

Would you be able to determine based on that signal from space that their was intelligent life in the universe, and they were trying to communicate with us? Or would you deny the existence of intelligent life and write off the message as being merely the product of random chance that was "bound to happen"?


What would be your assumption and why?

Thank you in advance for your honest answer.
 

Mr Jack

New member
I'd assume it was a hoax; the distances involved in interstellar communication make it highly unlikely any race would have been able to learn English from our stray communications, and then send a signal back to us.

If it could be demonstrated not to be a hoax? I'd accept that as conclusive evidence of intelligent life.
 

Nathon Detroit

New member
I'd assume it was a hoax; the distances involved in interstellar communication make it highly unlikely any race would have been able to learn English from our stray communications, and then send a signal back to us.
OK, so you don't like the message eh? Then imagine a message that you could believe (it really doesn't matter it's a hypothetical). Just imagine a believable message that came from the depths of space, and we knew it wasn't a hoax or an error in equipment.

If it could be demonstrated not to be a hoax? I'd accept that as conclusive evidence of intelligent life.
Why?

Why wouldn't you assume it was just the "luck of the draw"? It was bound to happen wasn't it?
 

eveningsky339

New member
The odds of there being intelligent life in the universe-- let alone the galaxy-- are so slim that I would agree with Mr. Jack's reaction. I'd think it was a hoax.
 

Nathon Detroit

New member
The odds of there being intelligent life in the universe-- let alone the galaxy-- are so slim that I would agree with Mr. Jack's reaction. I'd think it was a hoax.
A hoax is ruled out.

It's either....

- A real signal from intelligent life.

Or...


- A product of random chance.
 

PlastikBuddha

New member
This is a bit long, I apologize in advance for that but there is no way for me to ask this question any more brief than this.

Imagine that you visiting your friend for the weekend and your friend works for the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), I am sure you are all familiar with them, they sit around all day, everyday for the last 48 years or so scanning the universe for signals that come from the darkness of space looking to see if any of these signals demonstrate the hallmarks of intelligence i.e., some type of pattern. Said in short... they search the heavens for intelligent life in the universe.

And in all those years the SETI project has had really only one "wow" moment where a signal resembled something "other" than random noise. Now of course this "wow" moment didn't really amount to much other than a few characters lined up a tad more orderly than usual. I attached the "wow" signal below so you could see the minor order in the sea of randomness.

But lets imagine that on the weekend you were visiting something much more than a "wow" moment occurred. Lets imagine that a signal was detected emanating from the depths of space that read.....

"people of earth, we would like to introduce ourselves to you we are a race of intelligent creatures that lives in a galaxy far, far away and we want to communicate to you that you are not alone in the universe."

Obviously, this message would be one of the most incredible discoveries in the history of mankind.

But what would you believe? Would you believe it was actually sent from an intelligent life source from another galaxy? Or would you believe it was merely an amazing coincidence of chance that caused a random signal to just appear to have that amazing understandable order?

What many of you have been arguing in another thread leads me to believe that you COULD NOT determine that the message was from an intelligent source and instead it was simply "bound to happen" sooner or later because of the probability of random things eventually looking ordered (by chance). In the thread I referenced ThePhy stated that a tennis ball if thrown against a brick wall enough times would occasionally "slip through" a solid brick wall every now and then simply because the atoms and molecules might line up just right. In fact, he argued that it would, and will, happen several times if the ball was thrown enough.

Notice what thePhy stated on the other thread...
Therefore ThePhy's argument is... "it's bound to happen!"

Now, I am pretty sure that a signal coming from outer space that had 40 words in a comprehensible order... (i.e., "people of earth, we would like to introduce ourselves to you we are a race of intelligent creatures that lives in a galaxy far, far away and we want to communicate to you that you are not alone in the universe.") is still FAR, FAR, FAR, more likely to occur by chance than a tennis ball passing through a brick wall or a picture of Marilyn Monroe juggling fish, accidentally generated on a computer screen by random pixels.

Therefore, I would love an honest answer from all of you to the following question.... (finally I get to my question)

Would you be able to determine based on that signal from space that their was intelligent life in the universe, and they were trying to communicate with us? Or would you deny the existence of intelligent life and write off the message as being merely the product of random chance that was "bound to happen"?


What would be your assumption and why?

Thank you in advance for your honest answer.

Is there a proposed mechanism that could possibly produce such a complex signal naturally even given a near infinite amount of time? If not it is reasonable to assume intelligence.
 

Layla

New member
What many of you have been arguing in another thread leads me to believe that you COULD NOT determine that the message was from an intelligent source and instead it was simply "bound to happen" sooner or later because of the probability of random things eventually looking ordered (by chance). In the thread I referenced ThePhy stated that a tennis ball if thrown against a brick wall enough times would occasionally "slip through" a solid brick wall every now and then simply because the atoms and molecules might line up just right. In fact, he argued that it would, and will, happen several times if the ball was thrown enough.

Do you not understand the difference between "billions of years" and "sooner or later"? An unlikely event becomes incredibly likely with enough time. My lifetime is NOT enough time. I actually said the words "billions of years". What is difficult to understand about those words? How do they translate to "bound to happen sooner or later", in your head?

Therefore, I would love an honest answer from all of you to the following question.... (finally I get to my question)

Would you be able to determine based on that signal from space that their was intelligent life in the universe, and they were trying to communicate with us? Or would you deny the existence of intelligent life and write off the message as being merely the product of random chance that was "bound to happen"?


What would be your assumption and why?

Given your condition that it cannot be a hoax, I'd probably be inclined to believe it was intelligent life. As I said, listening in for signals for 40-odd years does not constitute enough time to allow the exceedingly unlikely to become likely. It's possible, but as far as probability goes, life is more probable (IMO).
 

Nathon Detroit

New member
Is there a proposed mechanism that could possibly produce such a complex signal naturally even given a near infinite amount of time?
ThePhy, Layla, SUTG, arglebargle, mebrainhurtz, are arguing that random chance WILL produce such events, they say it is inevitable. In fact they argue that far more less likely events will happen (like a tennis ball passing effortlessly through a solid brick wall because their atoms lined up "just right").

Therefore, the mechanism is either intelligence, or chance.

If not it is reasonable to assume intelligence.
That is the question. :) You tell me, what would you answer be?
 

Layla

New member
ThePhy, Layla, SUTG, arglebargle, mebrainhurtz, are arguing that random chance WILL produce such events, they say it is inevitable. In fact they argue that far more less likely events will happen (like a tennis ball passing effortlessly through a solid brick wall because their atoms lined up "just right").

Don't put words in my mouth. All I said was that it becomes a lot more likely given enough time. I didn't say that it will definitely happen and I certainly didn't comment on the tennis ball scenario.
 

Nathon Detroit

New member
Do you not understand the difference between "billions of years" and "sooner or later"? An unlikely event becomes incredibly likely with enough time. My lifetime is NOT enough time. I actually said the words "billions of years". What is difficult to understand about those words? How do they translate to "bound to happen sooner or later", in your head?
That's irrelevant! If it can happen, it can happen during your lifetime! It's possible isn't it?

What makes your lifetime so special that it can't be one of "those times" where this happens by chance? Sorry but that line of reasoning is merely equivocation.

Given your condition that it cannot be a hoax, I'd probably be inclined to believe it was intelligent life. As I said, listening in for signals for 40-odd years does not constitute enough time to allow the exceedingly unlikely to become likely. It's possible, but as far as probability goes, life is more probable (IMO).
Couldn't something random just as easily happen on the first try as the 50 Zillionth try??? I am pretty sure you guys were arguing that point on the other thread.

So, basically your answer is.... you would assume it was intelligent life because even though something like this is "bound to happen" it isn't "bound to happen" in your lifetime.

Is that what you are arguing?
 

arglebargle

BANNED
Banned
This is a bit long, I apologize in advance for that but there is no way for me to ask this question any more brief than this.

Imagine that you visiting your friend for the weekend and your friend works for the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), I am sure you are all familiar with them, they sit around all day, everyday for the last 48 years or so scanning the universe for signals that come from the darkness of space looking to see if any of these signals demonstrate the hallmarks of intelligence i.e., some type of pattern. Said in short... they search the heavens for intelligent life in the universe.

And in all those years the SETI project has had really only one "wow" moment where a signal resembled something "other" than random noise. Now of course this "wow" moment didn't really amount to much other than a few characters lined up a tad more orderly than usual. I attached the "wow" signal below so you could see the minor order in the sea of randomness.

But lets imagine that on the weekend you were visiting something much more than a "wow" moment occurred. Lets imagine that a signal was detected emanating from the depths of space that read.....

"people of earth, we would like to introduce ourselves to you we are a race of intelligent creatures that lives in a galaxy far, far away and we want to communicate to you that you are not alone in the universe."

Obviously, this message would be one of the most incredible discoveries in the history of mankind.

But what would you believe? Would you believe it was actually sent from an intelligent life source from another galaxy? Or would you believe it was merely an amazing coincidence of chance that caused a random signal to just appear to have that amazing understandable order?

What many of you have been arguing in another thread leads me to believe that you COULD NOT determine that the message was from an intelligent source and instead it was simply "bound to happen" sooner or later because of the probability of random things eventually looking ordered (by chance). In the thread I referenced ThePhy stated that a tennis ball if thrown against a brick wall enough times would occasionally "slip through" a solid brick wall every now and then simply because the atoms and molecules might line up just right. In fact, he argued that it would, and will, happen several times if the ball was thrown enough.

Notice what thePhy stated on the other thread...
Therefore ThePhy's argument is... "it's bound to happen!"

Now, I am pretty sure that a signal coming from outer space that had 40 words in a comprehensible order... (i.e., "people of earth, we would like to introduce ourselves to you we are a race of intelligent creatures that lives in a galaxy far, far away and we want to communicate to you that you are not alone in the universe.") is still FAR, FAR, FAR, more likely to occur by chance than a tennis ball passing through a brick wall or a picture of Marilyn Monroe juggling fish, accidentally generated on a computer screen by random pixels.

Therefore, I would love an honest answer from all of you to the following question.... (finally I get to my question)

Would you be able to determine based on that signal from space that their was intelligent life in the universe, and they were trying to communicate with us? Or would you deny the existence of intelligent life and write off the message as being merely the product of random chance that was "bound to happen"?


What would be your assumption and why?

Thank you in advance for your honest answer.

The tennis ball is not going to go through the wall. The idea about atoms lining up is ridiculous... it seems to be based on the 'Bohr' model of the atom (solar-system lookin' things)... and we've known that model to be wrong for over 80 years... maybe 100... I forget. It is not the alignment of the atoms that keeps things from interpenetrating... it is the 'weak nuclear force'... and no amount of 'alignment is going to get around that.

Single hadrons and photons can get through things by 'quantum tunneling'... but thats about it... unless somebody manages to completely rewrite quantum physics.
 

arglebargle

BANNED
Banned
ThePhy, Layla, SUTG, arglebargle, mebrainhurtz, are arguing that random chance WILL produce such events, they say it is inevitable. In fact they argue that far more less likely events will happen (like a tennis ball passing effortlessly through a solid brick wall because their atoms lined up "just right").

Therefore, the mechanism is either intelligence, or chance.

That is the question. :) You tell me, what would you answer be?

The ONLY thing that Arglebargle has said about random anything is that mutations are random.
 

Layla

New member
That's irrelevant! If it can happen, it can happen during your lifetime! It's possible isn't it?

What makes your lifetime so special that it can't be one of "those times" where this happens by chance? Sorry but that line of reasoning is merely equivocation.

Couldn't something random just as easily happen on the first try as the 50 Zillionth try??? I am pretty sure you guys were arguing that point on the other thread.

So, basically your answer is you would assume it was intelligent life because even though something like this is "bound to happen" it isn't "bound to happen" in your lifetime?

Is that what you are arguing?

What? Do you have any understanding of how probability works? Every individual try has the same probability -- indeed, making the first try as likely or unlikely as the 50 zillionth. But the probability of it happening in 1 try is a heck of a lot lower than the probability of it happening in 50 zillion.

Roll two dice once and there is a low probability that you'll get, say, a 2. If you roll the dice 100 times, then the probability becomes much higher. Try number 100 will have the same probability as try number 1, but as a group of 100 tries the probability that one of them will produce a 2 is higher than the probability for any one try. Do you get this? The more tries you have, the higher the chances that one of them will produce the result you're looking for.

I don't know how else to explain this to you.

It's not likely to happen in my lifetime because 60-100 years is not a significant length of time. Yes, it could happen, and the probability of it happening at any one point is the same as at any other point. But the chance of it happening within 100 years is lower than the chance of it happening within a zillion.
 

Nathon Detroit

New member
The tennis ball is not going to go through the wall. The idea about atoms lining up is ridiculous... it seems to be based on the 'Bohr' model of the atom (solar-system lookin' things)... and we've known that model to be wrong for over 80 years... maybe 100... I forget. It is not the alignment of the atoms that keeps things from interpenetrating... it is the 'weak nuclear force'... and no amount of 'alignment is going to get around that.

Single hadrons and photons can get through things by 'quantum tunneling'... but thats about it... unless somebody manages to completely rewrite quantum physics.
OK, then use another example. How about the example of random pixels being sent to a computer screen. Some argue that eventually these random pixels will display a detailed picture of Marilyn Monroe juggling fish while smoking cigars. If you agree that will never happen then I guess you can gracefully bow out of this thread because you and I agree.

The ONLY thing that Arglebargle has said about random anything is that mutations are random.
How about you just answer the question I asked in the opening post so that we can have a discussion?
 

Nathon Detroit

New member
It's not likely to happen in my lifetime because 60-100 years is not a significant length of time. Yes, it could happen, and the probability of it happening at any one point is the same as at any other point. But the chance of it happening within 100 years is lower than the chance of it happening within a zillion.
Layla the random signals from space that SETI is listening to have been generated since the creation of the universe. Your lifetime is occurring billions of years since the beginning (if you believe the universe is billions of years old). It's irrelevant that SETI is only now tracking those signals.

If it could happen, it could happen at any time.

Do you believe such a signal could be generated randomly but it might take a few more billion years? If so why?
 

Layla

New member
Layla the random signals from space that SETI is listening to have been generated since the creation of the universe. Your lifetime is occurring billions of years since the beginning (if you believe the universe is billions of years old). It's irrelevant that SETI is only now tracking those signals.

If it could happen, it could happen at any time.

Do you believe such a signal could be generated randomly but it might take a few more billion years? If so why?

Er, it's not irrelevant. It's the point. We've only been listening for 40 years, and the chance of it occurring within that time frame is ridiculously low. That there were billions of years preceding the ones that we've been listening for signals in makes no difference. As I said, the increased chace relates to the number of tries you measure -- 40 years worth is nothing!

I believe it's possible, given billions and billions of years. I don't see it as particularly relevant or useful, though, it's purely a theoretical standpoint. I don't think it'll ever happen for us to witness.
 

Prisca

Pain Killer
Super Moderator
Er, it's not irrelevant. It's the point. We've only been listening for 40 years, and the chance of it occurring within that time frame is ridiculously low. That there were billions of years preceding the ones that we've been listening for signals in makes no difference. As I said, the increased chace relates to the number of tries you measure -- 40 years worth is nothing!

I believe it's possible, given billions and billions of years. I don't see it as particularly relevant or useful, though, it's purely a theoretical standpoint. I don't think it'll ever happen for us to witness.
In other words, you would believe it was a random event and not a sign of intelligent life?
 

Nathon Detroit

New member
I believe it's possible, given billions and billions of years.
Layla according to you there HAVE been billions and billions of years!

Think of it like this....
Lets say you have 20 dice. And you want to roll all 20 dice at once. And the desired result is that you want all the dice to come up as a 1 on the same roll. 20 dice rolled, all landing on 1.

Lets say some folks start rolling the dice on January 1st 2009. Are you arguing that there is a certain time-frame after the start of the experiment where it would be more likely that the desired result come up while you where in the room?

Essentially what you are saying is it would be pointless to schedule your visit to see the successful result of the dice roll for some arbitrary amount of time. Which of course is silly. Each time the dice is rolled there are the exact same odds that you will get your desired result. It could happen on day one, or it could happen 5 years down the road.

Likewise, the signal from space could just as easily be generated in your lifetime as it could be any other time in history, assuming the signal was a product of random chance.
 
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