SETI Scientist Explains Why We Haven’t Found Aliens Yet

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a field of science that’s been around for over 60 years. While SETI tools and strategies have improved immensely over that time, we have yet to find definitive evidence for intelligent alien life in our universe.

TechCrunch spoke with famed astronomer Jill Tarter, to understand how the search has changed over the years and why we haven’t found intelligent life yet. Tarter, who was theinspiration for Dr. Ellie Arroway in Carl Sagan’s Contact, has a PhD in astrophysics and has dedicated her career to the SETI field.

When asked what drew her to SETI Tarter said, “I was so impressed by the idea that, after millennia of asking the philosophers what we should believe about whether there was life out there, suddenly in the middle of the 20th century we had the tools – computers and radio telescopes – that would allow us to try to find out what is rather than what someone told us to believe. I thought, ‘this is fabulous.’”

Tarter was recently featured in WeTransfer’s Creative Class series, which highlights creative influencers in various fields.

What makes SETI creative is that scientists have to decide what exactly they’re looking for. How do you define intelligence?

SETI is listening for signs of technology by looking for radio waves and laser signals in the universe that couldn’t have been created by natural sources.

Over the past 60 years, this search has become more effective. Tarter explains that advanced computing and better telescopes have helped a lot. Perhaps the biggest advancement, however, was the knowledge that planets in the universe are more common than scientists previously thought.

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