Frank Drake, creator of the eponymous equation formulated to predict the probability of finding communicative extraterrestrial life in our galaxy, thinks that actively transmitting messages into outer space (as opposed to listening passively for extraterrestrial communication) is a silly, expensive, and inefficient idea.

Photo Credit: Stephane Guisard/ESO

Drake's opinion contrasts with that of Douglas Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute, who advocated for active, directed communication during a press conference at this week's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, claiming that doing so would be part of humanity "growing up."

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Kiki Sanford reports on the press conference at Boing Boing, where she summarizes both Vakoch's stance and the supporting viewpoint of scientist Seth Shostak, who "rapidly and eloquently listed the reasons that behoove us to set resources to an active search for intelligent life beyond our solar system."

You can read Sanford's writeup here, but one of the more interesting sound bytes came from Drake, who, Sanford reports,

... said in conversation that despite the many potential benefits of making contact with an advanced life-form, "it would be silly to send messages now." For starters, we won't be able to benefit from such a project for at least 50-100 years. So, it would be a waste of resources at this point in time. Our time, money, and energy would be better spent searching as "sending messages is not efficient."

According to Drake, we should focus our resources on exploring and utilizing our own solar system as "intelligent species wouldn't be travelling between the stars." Why is that? Moving between stars is cost prohibitive. He went on to say that a 100 year space flight to a nearby star at one-tenth the speed of light (the fastest tolerable to the human body) would require the equivalent of the full power output of the United States for 200 years… and, that doesn't include the power needed to stop or land.

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Also opposing the transmission of messages to other star system is physicist and sci fi author David Brin, whose stance on the matter we reported on last week, in advance of the meeting.

Read the rest of Sanford's coverage at Boing Boing. See also Rowan Hooper's reportage at New Scientist.

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