Sunday, June 28, 2009

Drake on SETI and religious advertisements

Here is a Spiegel interview with Frank Drake about SETI: Alien Hunting. Here is an amusing part of the interview that brought in ads for tortilla chips and religious cults:
SPIEGEL ONLINE: And last year, we even sent a commercial for tortilla-chips.

Drake: Oh, we did? I didn't know that! I think that's a stupid waste of resources. It doesn't make sense in any way. How should extraterrestrials buy our tortilla-chips?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And what if the first extraterrestrial signal that we receive on earth is a cosmic commercial?

Drake: Actually, one of my worst nightmares is that we find a signal and it will be an advertisement for a religious cult.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why would that be a nightmare?

Drake: I want to learn more about a civilization than just its belief in the supernatural. Religion is an important part of the culture but may not help to improve the quality of life in a civilization. Maybe their religion is a really good one, but I doubt it.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: That makes it sound like you're not religious.

Drake: I am not a religious person.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does mankind devote enough resources to the search for extraterrestrial life?

Drake: There is no limit to the resources that we can use. We have technology that basically cannot be improved. But we need more of it. We have to search millions of stars, millions of frequencies. And we may have to do it over and over because they may not be transmitting all the time. It all comes down to money. For instance, in Germany you have beautiful radio-telescopes but they have never been used for SETI. The radio-astronomers are afraid that they will be criticized by the government. Nobody wants to have their funding cut because they seem to invest public funds in a project that could sound as if it was of dubious value.

Read the full interview here.

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