What Are the Best Places to Look for Intelligent Life?

Where should we be aiming our radio telescopes to search for signals that would tell us someone—at least as clever as us—is out there? In the past, this meant looking at systems where the host star was similar to the Sun. But there are big advantages to looking in the directions of so-called red dwarf stars; runty suns that make up three-fourths of all stars. SETI is using the Allen Telescope Array in a two-year scrutiny of a large number of red dwarf star systems, looking for signals that would indicate extraterrestrial intelligence.

What Sort of Signal Would ET Send?

For a half-century, SETI experiments have looked for monochromatic radio signals from the stars, usually at the wavelength of the natural emission of interstellar hydrogen. But if a society is hundreds of light-years away, would they not choose to either transmit information-rich signals, or perhaps just short pings to get our attention?

Should We Try Transmitting to the Stars?

So-called active SETI, in which we make some deliberate transmissions to nearby star systems, is both problematic and highly controversial. Should we do it, and if so, what should we say?

What Are The Consequences of Inventing Strong Artificial Intelligence?

It’s said that, sometime in the next 50 years, we’ll invent our successors: cogitating computers that can write great literature and teach at your local university. If so, then they will design their successors, and biological intelligence—which now rules the planet—will suddenly become quaint. What does this imply about our future, and the types of intelligence that might pervade the cosmos?

How Can We Better Bring Science to the Public?

There is little as gratifying as seeing people light up when they finally understand a bit of scientific reasoning, or hear for the first time the results of science exploration. With articles, and our radio show, “Big Picture Science,” I try to convey the ah-hah excitement of science to Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch.

There’s a Lot of Pseudo Science Out There: Is This Something to Worry About?

I get phone calls and emails every day from people who believe they’ve interacted with visiting aliens. Is this a harmless delusion, or—as in medicine—are there real consequences for believing in things for which the evidence is flimsy or worse?