Faqs

About

  • "Technosignature" is a term coined by astronomer Jill Tarter to describe a potential indicator of any sort of technology which is detectable through its impact on the surrounding environment (and thus an indicator of intelligent life). Searching for technosignatures or biosignatures (indicators of life which may or may not be intelligent) is a broader approach than traditional SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence), which has primarily focused on detecting intentional outreach by advanced civilizations through radio or optical signals and interstellar beacons.
  • Obviously both offer advantages and would revolutionize our view of the cosmos, but an advantage to search for technosignatures is that technology is essentially biology writ large, and has the potential to be more recognizable and more detectable than organic life. Although searching for technosignatures is fraught with the risk of anthropomorphism, we can safely make certain assumptions about how physics works everywhere in the universe, while it's much harder to generalize about life. Does all life require water, air and a temperate climate? Is all life carbon-based? With technosignatures, we can reasonably assume that whatever technologies have been developed by extraterrestrial civilizations, they must at least adhere to the laws of physics.
  • One obvious explanation is that extraterrestial civilizations don't exist, although most scientists would agree that such a determination is extremely premature. Our current detection technologies provide a small fraction of the resolution necessary to perform a comprehensive audit of the visible universe, and we spend a truly miniscule amount of money searching what we can see. Winnowing the search still further is the fact that most research pertaining to the search for extraterrestial intelligence is forced to piggyback on other science goals. Based on all these factors, it would be miraculous if scientists had actually succeeded in detecting unambiguous evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence over the past few decades of searching.
  • Over the past sixty years, many organized searches have been undertaken in hope of discovering indications of extraterrestrial intelligence. Most of these searches have assumed that extraterrestrial civilizations would wish to deliberately communicate using radio, optical or other portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Breakthrough Listen is only the latest organization to attempt to detect signals from distant civilizations.

    The problem with searches predicated on intentional messaging is that we assume other civilizations will have the motive and resources to engage in a costly, long-term communications program (with a very slim chance of reply, and a potential round trip of tens of thousands of years for a single exchange of hellos). The fact that our own civilization has been unable to meet this threshold should tell us something about the challenge of other civilizations would face.

    Conversely, searching for "serendipitous" or "unintentional" technosignatures avoids the problem of motive. An extraterrestrial civilization which creates megastructures or dopes stars is a civilization we can, in theory, detect, even if they choose not to invest in broadcasting to the rest of the universe.
  • We felt "technosignatureresearchportal.com" was a bit much to remember, whereas the shorter "indifferentET.com" reflects our belief that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence should focus on the detectability of civilizations which aren't overly concerned about reaching out to us.
  • The search for extraterrestial intelligence is a scientific disclipline. UFOlogy is a conspiracy theory. The two are as unrelated as vulcanology is from the world of Jules Verne's subterranian dinosaurs. Unfortunately, many outside the scientific community see a blurry line, or no line at all, between the actual science of extraterrestrial intelligence and the pseudoscience of alien abductions and cattle mutilations. The solution to this problem is better publish outreach from the scientific community, and is one of the reasons that projects like the Technosignature Research Portal exist.
  • Please direct media inquiries to us through our contact form. We'll get back to you as quickly as possible to ensure that you make your deadline.

Get Involved

  • The Technosignature Research Portal is run by a remote all-volunteer staff of scientists and non-scientists, and is always looking for passionate volunteers to join our team. If you're interested in becoming an advocate, author, editor or community moderator, or have other unique skills to contribute, please let us know.

    If you'd like to make a financial contribution to our operations, we'd be similarly happy to hear from you. We keep our operational costs to a minimum, but every dollar helps.
  • Educational outreach is a high priority for the Technosignature Research Portal. We directly involve students in the process of contributing and annotating new research, and we strive to equip educators with information to help grow the next generation of cosmologists. If you're an educator looking for suggestions on how to incorporate the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into your curriculum, we'd love to help.

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Research

  • For reasons of copyright, we do not post actual academic papers on the Technosignature Research Portal. We do endeavor to share, wherever possible, an external link to any academic paper if we can find a prepress copy. Unfortunately, not all research is available through prepress servers, in which case the link we share is often to a paywalled copy. If this is inconvenient, we agree. We believe that scientific research (particularly publicly funded research, and research which piggybacks on publicly funded organizations like NASA, or publicly funded equipment like the Hubble Space Telescope) should be open, not paywalled by for-profit companies at exorbitant subscription rates. Sadly, this is a common compliant across all of academia, not just within cosmology.
  • There may be various reasons for this. The paper may not address any of the technosignatures currently on the portal. The paper may be notional rather than practical. The paper might not be published in a relevant peer-reviewed journal or posted to a relevant moderated prepress server. Or finally, we might just not be aware of it. If you feel the situation is the latter, please send us a link to the paper and if it meets the above criteria, we'll post it.
  • The purpose of the Technosignature Research Portal is to share research from the forefront of the scientific community. In most cases, research shared through the portal will have already been published through a peer-reviewed journal. In other cases, we may share research that has been moderated by a well known prepress server and by one or more editors at the Technosignature Research Portal, particularly if that research is written by a credentialled expert with a history of previous peer-reviewed research. In almost no cases will we share research from an unaffiliated, unpublished first-time author.