Parallel Universes

The non amateur stuff. Hawking, black holes, that sort of thing

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Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Stella
Thanks for your comments, which I think back up what I was suggesting. since I was already wittering on a lot, I was reluctant to go into more detail and probably get side-tracked into another issue. which I am all too often guilty of.
I seem to recall that from what I read Stanley williams was a good amateur observer who used a 6.5 inch scope (newtonian I think). I think he actually devised the method of timing the transits of features on Jupiter. His method subsequently became recognised BAA procedure although intially there was a big argie - bargie., between williams and some American professor? who claimed williams metod was not satisfactory. However. despite stanley Williams being right about his transit timing method, I understand he could not make decent astronomical drawings for toffee. It always puzzles me how a guy could make accurate transit times of deicate cloud features on Jupiter and at the same time see canals on Mars. Makes me wonder just how good a planetary observer E Stanley Williams really was. But perhaps I do him an injustice? Or was he another one who wanted to believe there was life on Mars.
However, I am getting sidetracked as usual.
As far as I am concerned if anyone wants to get involved with doing SETI work good luck to them, I am happy to try doing more convential practical astronomy. SETI might prove fruitful one day, but I think that day is a long time off.
Best wishes from the Grumpy Old Codger Cliff
davep
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Post by davep »

Cliff wrote:Basically I think the SETI thing is currently a complete waste of time. Possibly at some time in the future when our technology is more advanced, it might be worth looking.
You've said this a couple of times now but you don't seem to have said how "our technology" is lacking at the moment. In what way is it lacking?
Cliff wrote:However, I would not entirely agree with you about several things. In particular, as things stand I think it is still an assumption that there is life elsewhere in the Universe (never mind supposed intelligent life that we will ever be able to communicate with). The life on Mars thing is still pretty tenuous, related to a few meteorites. OK there may be water on Mars, but that has been known about or certainly very strongly suspected for a considerable time.
Of course it's an "assumption" that there is life elsewhere in the universe -- if that assumption is being made. If you think about it though SETI isn't really about that assumption, SETI is about having a look around in a bunch of useful wavelengths to see if what's happened here might have happened elsewhere in our neighbourhood. No assumption required.
Cliff wrote:So if someone does pick up an alien signal there are still likely to be ongoing disputes about its authenticity.
The "authenticity" of many sorts of observations in many fields is disputed from time to time. I'm not sure that this argument is a good argument to make against doing the observation in the first place. Take your Martian Canal analogy for example: the "authenticity" of those observations (and the conclusions drawn by some) would never had been an issue in the first place if nobody had bothered to make observations of Mars. I'm not sure that that's a good reason for us to not go looking at Mars.
Cliff wrote:On the other hand I have misgivings about selling star names to the public - but people are making money out of it, quite a lot of money.
You lost me with this one Cliff. How does this relate to SETI?
Cliff wrote:I am afraid that I am not a "Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy" fan, so the Douglas Adams quote you made ..... is a bit meaningless to me.
It's a joke (and a pretty clever one IMO), that's all.
Cliff wrote:If I recall correctly you sugested that the Martian Canal Furor revolved around just one observation. (I am sorry if I am mistaken about that).
Actually, I think I'm the one who should apologise here in that I worded what I'd written incorrectly. I wasn't trying to say that it was a single observation that was behind all of this. What I was trying to say was that it was a specific hypothesis that sought to explain the observation that was the issue. My point was that an anlogy regarding a hypothesis doesn't really work when you're drawing the parallel with a systematic set of observations.
Cliff wrote:As far as i am concerned there are far too many fascinating things for me to do in astronomy than getting involved with SETI, which I think would be a waste of my time.
While I appreciate that point of view I don't think it really says anything about SETI itself does it? Like you, I don't have anything to do with SETI either (unless you count the donation of some CPU cycles on a couple of GNU/Linux boxen -- I don't consider that involvement) and, even if I had the ability and capability I probably wouldn't. Like you, there are other things I'd sooner do in relation to astronomy. But, as I said before, a lack of desire on my part doesn't mean that I feel the need to deprecate those things I don't wish to be involved in (and drawing a parallel between SETI and the ETH explanation of UFOs is deprecation in my opinion).
Cliff wrote:For now though as far as I am concerned it is still an assumption that Intelligent Extraterestrial Life exists, althoough of course I accept it probably does but as yet not certain.
Couldn't agree more. The same was said and can be said now about other aspects of astronomy (extra-solar planets for example). However, if we can hypothesise something and the hypothesis is reasonable then I don't see a problem, in principle anyway, with testing the hypothesis. "There is life in the universe which advertises its existance via radio waves" is a known fact. Doing a quick check to see if there's only one example of this to hand doesn't seem like such a terrible thing to do. To my mind the most reasonable objections to SETI are objections based around practical considerations.
davep
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Post by davep »

Cliff wrote:As far as I am concerned if anyone wants to get involved with doing SETI work good luck to them, I am happy to try doing more convential practical astronomy.
How do you imagine your average backyard astronomer might get involved with actually doing SETI work?
Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Davep
I tend to be a bit forgetful and long winded so to keep things simple I won't try to tackle all the interesting points you just raised.
However, with regards to me thinking we currently lack the technology to make SETI worthwhile . You could say that is just my hunch. If I knew exactly what technology was needed I would tell them but I don't so I can tell them (or you).
By a similar token I was always against the Concorde project, whilst others were passionately in favour of it. In the circumstances I was happy when Concorde was eventually grounded. Others would call me an aviation Philistine. My opinion had been that super-sonic airliners should be sat on until technology was more advanced. That was then, now my opinions about aviation have changed again. But that is a different long winded story.
Ironically I was a radio mechanic in the army (REME) when I did my National Service, so I am at least aware of radio transmissions. I am also aware of how much radio technology has advanced since those days. Although my own knowledge is very limited. There were no transisters back then 1954-56 (at least not in ordinary general use).
With regards to "selling star names", I suppose my comment was a bit spurious and perhaps needed expanding to make sense. I was just trying to make the point that my attitude to "buying and selling star names" is probably out of step with most other astronomers, as is my attitude to SETI. I personally think "real" astronomers should have been selling star names (after all there are plenty of stars to go round if there is demmand? Someone else (who I will not name) added to my suggestion by saying that any money made from selling star names could be given to charity. I thought that suggestion a good idea.
I only mentioned the star naming matter as an example of me being out of step with many ,if not the majority of astronomers. In a similar way I may be out of step with certainly many, if not the majority of astronomers, with regards to SETI who probably think SETI is the best thing since sliced bread.
With regards to the "Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy". I suppose Mr Adams made quite a lot of money out of the project so the jokes on me. However, I do not think I ever watched a full "Hitch Hiker's" programme and have certainly never read any of the books. I am afraid there is not really very much science fiction that I do like, I did enjoy "Capricorn One" though, as an example.
Despite being quite a keen planetary observer, I only have a vague interest in exoplanets. However, I did make a point of observing the star 51 Peg very soon after the very first exoplanet was discovered orbitting it. If I recall correctly the 51 Peg discovery was made by some "renegade" Swiss astronomers who should not have made the first discovery. It was a bit of an annoying fluke for some astronomers because due to an error 51 Peg had not been included on the target list of the teams who were favourite to find the first exoplanet.
My slogan is, "SETI for ever, but I do not think it worth bothering about YETi." Of course others say "No look, no find."
Best wishes from the Very Grumpy Old Codger Cliff
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