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I’ve spent so much recent time on two SETI/METI papers by James, Gregory and Dominic Benford because they contain powerful arguments for re-thinking our current SETI strategy. By analyzing how we might construct cost-optimized interstellar beacons, the authors ask what those beacons might look like if other civilizations were turning them toward us. The results are striking: A distant beacon operating for maximum effect consistent with rational expense would offer up a pulsed signal that will be short and intermittent, recurring over periods of a month or year.
It will, in other words, be unlike the kind of persistent signal that conventional SETI is optimized to search for. Searches designed to sweep past stars quickly, hoping to find long-lasting beacons whose signature would be apparent, would rarely notice oddball signals that seem to come out of nowhere and then vanish. Tracking such signals, looking for signs of regularity and repetition, calls for a different strategy. SOURCE