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Guest: Dr. S. Pete Worden; Topics: The Breakthrough Prize Foundations, Starshot, Listen, Watch, message, searching for ET, global radio telescope locations, The Meer Kat telescope, Ireland's new radio telescope, interstellar travel, laser propulsion, Dr. Avi Loeb and Galileo, identifying life, Venus, Mars, space settlement and lots more.
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We welcomed Dr. Pete Worden back to the show to update us on the work of The Breakthrough Foundation with Starshot, Listen, Watch, and Message. We started off discussing Breakthrough Listen with the important new upgrade to the South African MeerKAT radio telescope located in the Karoo desert. We talked about why South Africa which led us to talking about searches in the Southern Hemisphere along the same in the Northern Hemisphere. This discussion opened the door to a broader discussion about the use of radio telescopes, why different locations around the world and the relatively new observatory in Ireland. After fully describing the S. African observatory and its 64 dishes, Pete talked about the new Chinese 500 meter dish, the array in N. California, Parkes in Australian, Green Bank, and a few others. Our guest also explained the advantages of a search in the Southern Hemisphere compared to the Northern Hemisphere plus he talked about some distinct advantages using low frequency wave lengths such as is being used by the new Irish observatory near Dublin.
Pete talked about the nearby target being Alpha Centauri. He talked beaming a small wafer lie array being propelled their by laser light beams at about 20% the speed of light to collect information but that there was no way to stop or slow it down. While they might be able to command the probe to go elsewhere after leaving Alpha Centauri, navigation capabilities would be limited so in general the probe would just keep going. We talked about some science fiction methods of doing things, even transporting humans at an interstellar speed, about 1/20th of the laser beaming speed of the wafers so the travel time would be substantially longer. Don't miss this part of our discussion. During this part of the discussion, Pete introduced us to light buckets and as said above, sending humans on an interstellar flight for maybe 1-5% of light speed. He said such starships would have tons of fusion reactors onboard. Don't miss this starship of the future discussion.
I asked Pete about what many are reporting as a trend toward more scientific interest in searching for ET. He confirmed this from his perspective. I also asked him about the UAP incidents. He did express his opinion about them but said they were not part of the Breakthrough assembly of projects. We then switched topics given a listener emailed asking about finding quiet space in space for radio astronomy searches. Brandy mentioned the lunar far side in her question. Our guest said quiet space was preferable but listen to what was said when a similar question came up later in the show about space settlement locations and ET searches. Benny here in Las Vegas asked our guest about Breakthrough and SETI searches. Pete had much to say about this but also said Breakthrough was a traditional SETI search. Our guest provided information for amateurs and students to engage in SETI searches.
Eric from NY called with multiple questions for Pete. Eric's questions and concerns were technical and detailed. It was an excellent call so do pay attention when you hear him on the line. One of Eric's questions dealt with the work of the late and famous Dr. Robert Forward, a former friend of our guest. After Eric asked and got answers to his excellent questions, I read the email from Linda in Tucson about space settlement and which type of place would be best for an ET search including the Moon, Mars or free space. Pete evaluated each location and then told us which one he leaned toward. You have to guess, I won't tell you. Or just listen carefully to hear Pete tell us his favorite for ET searches based on the three settlement possibilities.
Toward the end of the program, Bill in San Diego sent in a note asking why if life was so plentiful in the universe it was so very hard to find it. Pete answered this question in multiple ways, including mentioning that if life were different than life as we know it to be, we might not recognize it. He then mentioned Dr. Lee Cronin and his work on using complexity as a way to ID life. Lee was on the show a year ago introducing us to his theory. He has done additional work on it so I have asked him to return as a guest this December. As we were ending and I asked our guest if we missed something, he suggested we might find signs of life by the end of the decade. He also suggested we not overlook the possibility of Venus as a place for life.
Please post your questions/comments for Dr. Worden on the blog for his show. You can reach Pete through The Breakthrough Foundation, the Space Show or me.