Contacting Some Not-So-Ancient Aliens

Since the Roswell incident, humans have been scanning the skies for signs of alien life. Both pro and amateur enthusiasts have dedicated some (or all) of their lives to answer the age-old question: are we alone in the universe? Countless documentaries, specials, movies, radio dramas, books and even multi-season TV shows have covered extensively the various theories and possibilities for alien life to exist, but none of them have been successful enough to turn the myth into a fact. However, that may be able to change soon, thanks to actual science being involved with the process of making contact with an alien race.

The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, the leading non-profit organization dedicated to the discovery of alien life, might be getting a little help from UC Irvine professor Gregory Benford and his twin, James, with a new way of making contact with the exterior. Professor Benford, a recognized astrophysicist and science fiction author, has recently proposed a new method to search for radio signals in the universe. The current method at SETI, which involves focusing its receivers on narrow band input and continuously blasted signals in all directions, may actually be a futile approach.

The method proposed by Professor Benford and his brother relies on the theory of “optimized-cost signals;” from his point of view, the possibility for an alien race sending these “continuously-blasted signals” is improbable due to the high-cost and inefficient use of resources. His method suggests that it is far more probable for extraterrestrials to use pulsed, narrowly directed broadband signals in the 1-10 gigahertz range, or, in layman’s terms: the signals will be direct and short in length.

“This approach is more like Twitter and less like ‘War and Peace,’” James Benford, founder and president of Microwave Sciences Inc. in Lafayette, Calif., said. With this reformation and with the aim of looking for said signals in the center of the Milky Way, where 90 percent of our galaxy’s stars are located, actual results may be found in the near future.

Sounds like a lot of science fiction, doesn’t it? And you may be asking yourself, “How would this benefit my life?”
The answer is not that simple, and most of us might be skeptics to extraterrestrial life, but when you put into account the advancements in physics in the past 10 years; the curiosity of String Theory; technological advancements duplicating every six months; and the popularity of “Ancient Aliens” on The History Channel, it seems that society is subtly adapting us to the knowledge of alien life.

This may sound a bit like a crazy conspiracy, but you can’t ignore the fact that the myth of aliens is far more mainstream now than it was 50 years ago; if there was a time to know about them, it would be now. It wouldn’t be such as big a surprise now than it would have been in the ’50s; with our technology being as sophisticated as it is today, it’s a neat approach to tie-in more credible scientists with a field that has been mocked by many.

Professor Benford has made his works accessible to the general public, gaining quite the following from other physicists and scientists on his new method. This new search for “Benford Beacons” could give some new credibility to SETI’s efforts, which up to now have been practically fruitless in their findings. Only results will tell if this new method will find those aliens hiding in our galaxy. Until then, it’s best to live our lives normally, but not be completely unaware that the possibility of finding legitimate alien intelligence evidence is possible in the near future, and to look forward to what Giorgio A. Tsoukalos of the crazy hair has to say about this on “Ancient Aliens.”

Marko Ocampo is a third-year nursing science major and can be reached at