The SETI League, Inc., a membership-supported, non-profit {501(c)(3)}, educational and scientific organization Searching for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

Ask Dr. SETI ®

Chapter 5: Sociology

A Thousand Years to Say Hi

Dear Dr. SETI:
What's the point of looking for ET, if it will take a million years to visit, and a thousand to say hi?

David, South Africa

The Doctor Responds:
I like to think of SETI as an exercise in interstellar archaeology. Because of the distance between stars, and the time required to communicate between them, any transmission we receive is likely to be an artifact from a long-extinct civilization. No matter. I can walk into any library in the world, and read transmissions from long-dead races. The inability to dialog with Shakespeare or Plato in no way diminishes the value I receive from the one-way communications.

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