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What If They Called and No One Was Listening?

We know they're out there.

The probability that we're alone, the sole sentient species in this immense universe, is just too minuscule to contemplate. Every credible cosmological study of the past thirty years has pointed to the likely existence of countless intelligent species scattered throughout the cosmos. And because our star is young on a cosmic scale, we are the newcomers. They've been out there for billions of years.

We know they're calling.

Maybe not to us, but certainly to each other, or among themselves. Very likely, they're using some form of electromagnetic communications. It makes good sense. It's cheap, and quick, and universally available. If so, their microwaves have been zipping around since before our star first sputtered to life. Photons are the fastest of all spaceships. Theirs may be falling on our heads even as we speak.

We know how to listen.

We have for decades. Modern radiotelescopes are capable of sensing microwave radiation of intelligent origin, from anywhere in the Milky Way galaxy. With enhancements in technology, we may soon be able to haul in signals from the other hundred billion galaxies as well. On Earth Day, April 21, 1996, we launched our Project Argus All Sky Survey. From our first 5 small radiotelescopes we hope to grow to 5,000, scanning the entire sky for the telltale microwave signatures of alien civilizations.

We know there'll be setbacks.

There have been already. In 1993, Congress chose to slash NASA's SETI funding, just a year into their comprehensive ten-year program. But should we allow the problems of humankind, those very problems for which SETI promises answers, to force us to turn inward? Beyond our planet lies our destiny. If we turn our sights away from the stars, might we not die a very lonely death?

We know we could be wrong.

But even if we are, what is there to lose? SETI has to be one of the great scientific bargains of all time, costing but a tenth of a percent of NASA's budget. The advances in microwave communication, digital signal processing and computer software which made the search possible have already enriched our daily lives. Future technological advances will have positive spin-off which we cannot now begin to contemplate. If, after a generation or so of exhaustive monitoring, we fail to find any verifiable signals of extraterrestrial origin, we might conclude that we're going about this in the wrong way. Or we may be forced to reluctantly concede that we are, indeed, alone in the universe. Isn't that discovery, too, worth the price of admission?

We know you'll want to join us.

We are The SETI League, Inc., a membership-supported, non-profit [501(c)(3)], educational and scientific corporation devoted to keeping the search alive. Our mission involves research, economics and politics. We will encourage restoration of NASA's SETI funding if possible, help to privatize the effort if necessary, coordinate the efforts of a wide range of SETI amateurs and professionals, and educate the public as to the possible benefits of the search. A broad membership base will make it possible for us to help put SETI back on track. It will also enable us to keep you on track with SETI related information, through our quarterly newsletter, SearchLites. Join us today. In the immortal words of Rick Blaine, "If that call comes, and you don't answer, you'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But soon, and for the rest of your life."

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this page last updated 4 January 2003
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