These are the papers we read and/or discussed in the class. Some are classics and could be considered part of the SETI “canon”, some are latest research that may enter the canon someday, and a few are well known but actually assigned as cautionary tales. Also included are many tangents that follow discussions that came up in class, and were not assigned but are included for additional reading and/or amusement by interested students.
Not all of these papers are publicly available, but most are available through a university library subscription to major journals. Some are hard to find at all, even with a library as extensive as Penn State’s (we found ILIAD very useful for digging up rare titles).
Those that we assigned in class are in bold. Some important papers were added to the list after class ended for completeness.
Beneath the titles are a brief description of why that particular entry is relevant to this course, followed by a public link to the citation. Beneath those are links to select blog entries by the 2018 SETI course students that summarize/describe/critique those papers. (You can read all of the entries here.)
These are not presented in the order we followed in class; they are in a more natural order that will be approximated in the 2020 instance of the course.
The instructor thanks Jill Tarter, Shelley Wright, Andrew Howard, Paul Horowitz, Andrew Howard, and the students in the class for helping identify the papers in this list. If you have big papers that are missed, please email your suggestions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy Alan Reyes at email@example.com, who is compiling a comprehensive bibliography of SETI and put much of this page together.
For those of the following articles that have a presence on the NASA ADS, you can find a publicly accessible library put together by Alan Reyes here for ease of viewing and manipulation:
Cocconi & Morrison (1959)
– The birth of Radio SETI.
– The first sharpening and an early formal statement of the Fermi paradox.
– Arguments against there being ETI. An argument against the plurality of inhabited worlds.
– A trenchant articulation of the Fermi Paradox
– An early attempt to resolve the Fermi Paradox: The Zoo Hypothesis
– A brief history of SETI.
– Additional remarks on SETI.
– Is SETI a waste of effort?
SETI Optimism & politics
– A call for an international observational effort to conduct radio SETI experiments.
– Rebuttal to pessimists, “why radio?”, and the Cosmic Haystack
– A rebuttal to “intelligence is rare” arguments.
– Argument to the National Academies of Science that SETI is part of Astrobiology and should be funded by NASA
Bell and Little Green Men
– The discovery of pulsars (which were originally codenamed Little Green Men based on their regular pulsation and potentially artificial origin). Also, an anecdote on the challenges of being a female scientist in a male-dominated Academia.
– A review of field of SETI from its context in the astronomical and greater scientific landscape, with a look at what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done in Radio SETI.
– A nice summary of the early justification for radio SETI.
– A nice summary of how radio SETI works.
– The proper citation to the Drake Equation
– F. Drake, “The Radio Search for Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life.” In Current Aspects of Exobiology, ed. G. Mamikunian and M. H. Briggs, 323-45. Oxford University Press
Sullivan, Brown and Weatherill (1978)
– “Eavesdropping – The radio signature of the earth”
– A discussion on how obvious Earth is in radio and of what we can infer about a planet from an “eavesdropping” detection without any decoding of information content.
More on Wow!
– Searching for the Wow! locale.
– A later search for Wow! using the VLA.
– A search for periodic emissions near the Wow! locale.
– Supplemental reading for Wow!
Schelling Points and beacons
– “Beacons” and “anti-cryptography” in SETI
– An exercise to get students thinking about Schelling points.
Schelling (1960) The Strategy of Conflict, Chapter 4
– On the theory of cooperation and the the introduction of Schelling points, common places or times of opportunity recognized by both parties in their pursuit of finding one another.
– A nice popular description of Schelling points.
– The Art of Strategy, Chapter 4: A Beautiful Equilibrium, p. 110: Lost in New York
– A video of the Schelling Experiment in NYC.
Wright et al. (2016) (section 5)
– Analysis of how to distinguish beacons from other signals in SETI
Wright (2017; Web)
– Popular description of Schelling Points
– Schelling points in SETI
The Arecibo Message
– The first METI message, sent from Arecibo in 1974.
– A statement encouraging international discussion on METI.
– An ethical consideration of METI
– http://rockethics.psu.edu/everyday-ethics/is-it-ethical-to-transmit-powerful-radio-signals-1 -Sheikh
– An anthropologist considers how humanity looks from the outside
– METI is not Dangerous
– Waiting for Extraterrestrial Intelligence?
JBIS Volume 67, especially Shostak pp 41-42
– Shostak responds to Brin and other METI opponents
–Unpacking the great transmission debate
Schwartz & Townes (1961)
– The suggestion that stimulated emission in the optical and NIR may be a viable platform to conduct SETI searches.
Kipping & Teachey (2016)
– The proposal that ETIs may seek to cloak the presence of their planet’s transit with deliberate laser emission. Perhaps more importantly: a new Schelling point in SETI.
– A suggestion that searches shouldn’t be limited to radio and microwave and that other wavelength ranges, such as the IR, should be tried.
– The suggestion that photon orbital angular momentum can be a communication way for SETI.
Dyson (1963) “Gravitational Machines” in Interstellar Communication: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life; A Collection of Reprints and Original Contributions ed. A.G.W. Cameron
– Gravitational wave detectors should look for evidence of ETIs
Jackson & Benford (2018) — A Gravitational Wave Transmitter
– A digital analysis of the “Face” on Mars. A case of SETI done wrong.
– More face-on-Mars from Carlotto
– A rare search for free-floating Solar System artifacts
Haqq-Misra & Kopparapu (2012)
– An examination of the likelihood of non-terrestrial artifacts in the Solar System.
Davies & Wagner (2013)
– An overview of the strategies used to determine whether the moon had been occupied in the remote past by an ETI.
– Analysis of the lifetime of an artificial object in the Solar System: a Tesla Roadster
– Example of radar used to detect (natural) subsurface cavities on other words.
– More examples of radar detection of (natural) subsurface structure
– An examination of the possibility that the solar system could have been occupied in the remote past by a prior indigenous intelligence.
Atmospheres and Surfaces
Lingham & Loeb (2017)
– Artificial reflections from exoplanetary surfaces
Waste Heat / Dyson / Kardashev
– The origin of the idea of Dyson Spheres.
The Byrds: CTA-120
– It’s successful METI! Also, SETI in pop culture: the forgotten false positive of CTA-102
Dyson spheres and Megastructures
– A search for Dyson spheres using archival IRAS all-sky infrared survey data.
– An assessment of whether observed galaxies exhibit evidence of KIII civilizations based on their properties.
– The presentation of the idea of transiting semaphores, megastructures in orbit whose aspect would be distinguishable by transit photometers.
– Thermodynamics of Dyson Spheres
Badescu & Cathcart (2000)
– “Stellar Engines”
Badescu & Cathcart (2006a)
– Dyson Spheres as “stellar engines”
– Energy trajectories of planetary life
– Dyson spheres detected in transit
– Limits of technology
– Dyson sphere discussion
Jugaku, Noguchi, & Nishimura (1995)
– An early Dyson Sphere search
Jugaku & Nishimura (2004)
– Results of the early Dyson sphere search
– A possible use for Solar-system scale engineering
– Chapter from “The Eerie Silence”
– The idea is presented that sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature, or “Nature Plus.”
– Under construction…
Villarroel et al. (2016)
– A search for disappearing stars.
Research Portfolios and “Fringe” Ideas
– Research Portfolios
– Jill Tarter Biography Review
– On Outré Ideas
Kuhn & Berdyugina (2015)
– SETI with a colossal telescope
Culture & Anthropology
– The idea that in a first encounter with ETI, the differences between cultures and biology inhibit success.
– Anthropology of SETI
– An anthropologist looks at SETI
– The Eerie Silence, Chapter 4: How Much Intelligence is Out There?
– Under construction…
– An alien intelligence on Earth
Birds Using Fire
– Intelligent non-human use of fire
SETI in the Media
– The first article on Tabby’s Star.
– A meta-article on the misrepresentation of scientific ideas in popular science articles.
– A look at the the reasoning behind scientific skepticism, especially when dealing with the ETI question.
– A reformulation of the Rio scale.
– Under construction…