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stage where we ourselves could do this sort of thing. There were like probably people, they’re sitting in chairs on the edge of the big giant dish, and we tell them we’re about ready to send, and they steer the telescope, that whole great big thing starts moving. Which is in itself very impressive. This giant thing is moving, and you just have the sense that something spectacular is going on. I will play the tape for you. This is a recording made in the control room of the Arecibo radio telescope at the time, in November , when we sent a message to the stars. That steady tone is the sound of the transmitter being turned on, it’s simply sending out a signal without any information on it. To call attention to itself, so that people who capture this will know that something is coming and here it comes. That sort of warbling sound you hear is actually a sequence of characters per second, being sent out with those characters being on two slightly different radio frequencies. When you listen to the sound, you had the impression that there was a story being told here. And when it finally ends, everybody was crying Radio Radio on the actual occasion. It was just the, um Radio sense that this great big machine was talking to another world. The message goes to , stars, so there’s a good chance, actually. The recipient of the Arecibo message is a galaxy , light years away. But the , years it would take for a message to get there, and for any reply to journey back to Earth, is far beyond the lifespan of any single human. Perhaps even the lifespan of civilisation itself. Human civilisation is thousands of years old, but we’ve only been sending strong signals into space for really about years. The truth is, we don’t know how long we’ll continue to send the signals out into space because we don’t know longa technological civilisation like ours typically lasts. When we look into space, searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, in a way we’re looking for a glimpse of our own future and potentially a glimpse of how our civilisation might come to an end. And one of the biggest dangers we face is the threat we pose to ourselves. In the Cold War, we were worried about nuclear annihilation. Nowadays we worry more about climate change, and in the future we might worry about things such as nanotechnology or artificial intelligence. These are all serious risks that we have to be very careful about. As we become more advanced, the threat we pose to ourselves increases because we have improved ability to harness large amounts of energy and manipulate the environment to a greater degree. When those processes go wrong, the damage we can inflict on ourselves and on the planet becomes substantial. Faced with these dangers, advanced civilisations could be relatively short-lived. It might be that in the . billion year history of the universe, many have risen, but today, nothing but ruins remain. So if we don’t find anything, that could be quite a disturbing thought because it could mean that the reason we don’t see anything is that civilisations don’t last very long, and that the signals they produce suddenly disappear. MUSIC: It’s Not Unusual by Tom Jones It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone Radio But if they haven’t destroyed themselves, a technologically advanced civilisation might provide us with another way of detecting them. Because all technology needs energy. In , Las Vegas consumed megawatts of power. Today that figure has nearly doubled to megawatts. That’s the same trend that we see all over the world. For the last century, every few decades, humanity’s power consumption has doubled. As our technology has increased, so too has our need for power. And, as demand increases, civilisations must look beyond their home world. Every star, just like our sun, is basically a giant nuclear furnace, fusing hydrogen into helium and producing energy. The ultimate limit to the amount of energy available to any civilisation is just the amount of energy that they can harvest from that parent star. Deep in the Mojave Desert, halfway between Las Vegas and Reno Radio

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