Chase for the Little Green Fellow – Farid Shirinfar

I think Richard Clar’s talk was very informative and eye-opening.  Although not a big fan of space-talks, Clar’s talk motivated me to research SETI.  To be frank, I don’t think that a dolphin orbiting the earth serves a significant role in SETI.  Clar argued that he suggested the use of dolphins because they are very smart animals, have evolved over years going from water to land and back to water, and are capable of making sounds with frequencies up to 200kHz.   As he mentioned, these facts don’t prove anything and are mere speculations. 

Although those are true facts about dolphins, they don’t make dolphins any better candidates than other beings for the purpose of SETI. I don’t see how smartness of dolphins contributes to them being better candidates.  After all we are not sending a live dolphin to space but a framework that looks like the animal.  In addition, it is no secret that we humans are, by far, the most intelligent beings on earth and if anything our means of communication can encapsulate more information compared to those of other beings.  Secondly, evolution of dolphins merely reflects how they have adapted to their environment and thus reflects the changes in earth conditions. Planets and stars thousands of years from earth are practically independent of earth conditions.  Assuming there is life on distant planets, I don’t see any reason why they may resemble dolphins more than other beings.  Finally, utilizing electronic oscillators, we can generate electromagnetic waves with frequencies orders of magnitudes higher than those of dolphins.  Consequently, we are not limited to frequency ranges generated by animals.

More importantly, dolphins and other animals can only make sound waves which don’t propagate in space due to absence of particles to carry them.  As a result, only electromagnetic waves may be used in the flying dolphin put in space.  But animals are not responsive to EM waves. i.e. humans, cats, dogs, and dolphins can not detect radio frequencies.   This, by itself, falsifies the argument of dolphins as good candidates because a flying dolphin equipped only with sound wave generation devices can’t send signals even to the moon, let alone to distant planets. 

With the above argument, I think putting a dolphin in space can only be argued to be an artistic act.  Frankly, I don’t see how that’s an art work.  I doubt if it makes anyone “stop and think.”  In fact, it comes as a surprise to me that Clar is suggesting to put a metal framework into space while his other projects raise the issue of orbital debris. 

Although I didn’t find the space dolphin practical or artistic, his talk motivated me to research SETI, and I should thank him for that. 

Former Senator Richard Bryan proposed a law which stopped NASA’s SETI program in 1993.   He’s famously quoted as saying: “The Great Martian Chase may finally come to an end. As of today millions have been spent and we have yet to bag a single little green fellow. Not a single Martian has said take me to your leader, and not a single flying saucer has applied for FAA approval.”  Many SETI advocates argue that NASA’s SETI was only 0.1% of NASA’s total budget and cancelling it reduced government’s deficit by only 0.0006%.[1]

Richrad Bryan

Although SETI may not have been the most expensive program of NASA, I think more important things could have been done with millions of dollars that were spent on sending signals that would need to travel 25,000 years to reach their destination and, just maybe, would be sent back to earth in another 25,000 years. 



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