Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Possible SETI Target HD 164595 - more messing around with Aladin

Last Update:  9 September 2016

There been a lot of kerfuffle lately about a possible SETI detection more than a year ago at the RATAN-600 radio telescope in Russia. Some would say far too much kerfuffle, since it was only seen once and may well admit to alternative explanations. SETI scientists like  Eric Korpela are unimpressed.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Gaia data release and Tabby's Star - the ELI5

Updated 6 September 2016: the bookshelf analogy was a bit muddled - I think I've fixed it.

On the 14th of September 2016 we are expecting the first data release from Gaia, and it could well
Exploded view of the Gaia Probe
turn out to reinforce, constrain, or rule out some favorite conjectures about the weird behavior of a star romantically named KIC 8462852, aka Tabby's Star - behavior that was discovered by exploring the data from the Kepler Space Telescope.

Now, this is going to get pretty elementary, so if you feel you're already up to speed on the topics in the last paragraph, you may want to skip this.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Aliens, Perhaps, but Not the Aliens of the Gaps

Update (8 August 2016): Audio Interview with Ben Montet.

With the publication of Montet and Simon's arresting new preprint showing even more anomalous dimming behavior by Tabby's Star,  a lot of reasonable people are asking whether it's time to declare this stellar weirdness the work of an ET civilization, or whether it may be soon. While I am emotionally inclined to go this way, and intuitively sense that this may be the ultimate conclusion reached, I am not a believer. There is a fundamental error we still must avoid.

Light curve for KIC 8462852 from Montet and Simon
It is not crazy or deluded to think that this could be the work of ET. Not at all. We know that technological civilizations exist in our galaxy, we just don't know how many. It is easy to get into pointless arguments about whether there is just one, or the universe is swarming with creatures in some ways analogous to dexterous, talking monkeys like ourselves. These arguments are usually based upon probability guesses with very weak, or even non existent empirical support.

The truth is that nobody really knows how common ET civilizations are, or how long they flourish, and the so far null result of our (so far) very poorly funded SETI enterprise isn't much help in resolving it one way or the other, as has been argued by such persons as Jill Tarter for many years now.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ok, it just got weirder

A huge development tonight in Tabby's Star with publication of Ben Montet's preprint. More soon.

There will be a hangout tonight to talk about it. Message  me if you are interested in coming into the hangout, but we are limited to 10 people total.