Video: Extending SETI into the near-infrared wavelengths

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been dominated by searches in radio wavelengths. Eventually SETI has been supplemented with Optical SETI, i.e. searches for signals in optical wavelengths. In the SETI Institute seminar video below, Shelley Wright of the University of Toronto reports on new technologies that are allowing the expansion of SETI into the near-infrared spectrum. Extending the search for ETI communication to near-infrared wavelengths – SETI Institute –

From the caption:

We are poised to take advantage of a remarkable confluence of technological advances and scientific opportunity. For the first time, very fast, wide bandwidth, high-gain, low noise near-infrared avalanche photo diode (APDs) detectors are available and reasonably priced.

Dr. Wright and her team are designing and constructing a new SETI instrument to search for direct evidence of interstellar communications via pulsed laser signals at near-infrared (900 – 1700 nm) wavelengths. The new instrument design builds upon our past optical SETI work, and is the first step toward a new, more versatile, and more sophisticated generation of very fast optical and near-infrared pulse search devices.

Dr. Wright will discuss the advantages of SETI searches at near-infared wavelengths. Dr. Wright will also present the instrument layout, including an overview of the opto-mechanical design, detector selection and characterization, signal processing, and integration procedure.

Finally, she will describe our initial observational setup and search strategies for SETI targets and other astronomical studies.

Review: “Fury of the Fifth Angel” by Pat and Chris Hoffman

There have been a number of books and movies about the end of the earth when a not-so heavenly object descends with extreme prejudice upon our helpless little planet. In Fury of the Fifth AngelPat and Chris Hoffman depict a scenario short of total oblivion by a space salvo but devastating none the less. Coming from a background in the power industry, they give a realistic portrayal of how civilization quickly descends into chaos as our utilities and other services switch off during a catastrophic cosmic pelting.

This book, Part I in a series, introduces a large number of characters in a diversity of places and backgrounds who participate in several parallel subplots. They illustrate the many ways such an event would impact, so to speak, a complex modern society, which can revert surprisingly quickly to a raw primitive condition. Presumably Part II will follow these characters as they struggle to survive in the chaos following a cataclysm and to rebuild their society.

With so many characters, it’s not too surprising that most are one dimensional and only a few stretch into 2-D, while none have any great depth. But it is the disaster – before, during and afterwards – that is being depicted and the characters are drawn well enough to profile it in vivid 3-D.

There is a lengthy build up to the action from above and a focus in more than one of the subplots on efforts of the powers-that-be to keep quiet the approaching threat. In a day when most any celestial object that can be seen by one observer is quickly found by multiple observers all of whom race to be the first to report the discovery on line, the suggestion that such a finding could be suppressed is unrealistic. Furthermore, it is clearly nearly impossible to keep secrets these days in government and in large organizations, especially dramatic earth-shaking kinds of secrets.

That said, Fury of the Fifth Angel is a fun and thought-provoking read that provides a fine contribution to the celestial catastrophe genre.