Edward Snowden on StarTalk: Encrypted Alien Signals Could Appear as Background Noise

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Message 1727477 - Posted: 21 Sep 2015, 5:27:32 UTC
Last modified: 21 Sep 2015, 5:32:21 UTC

http://www.startalkradio.net/show/a-conversation-with-edward-snowden-part-1/

If ET encrypts their data like we sometimes do, signals might look like background noise. Starts around 32 minutes, for a few minutes. Is this true what encryption does to radio and other signals? Would it potentially affect SETI? Discuss.
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Message 1727494 - Posted: 21 Sep 2015, 9:07:13 UTC - in response to Message 1727477.  
Last modified: 21 Sep 2015, 9:11:04 UTC

What you have here is a poorly specified question. All signals can "appear" to be noise simply by being too weak or too far away to have enough signal power vis-à-vis noise to recover the information. What Snowden was talking about was probably the fact that certain encryption methods by the military use what is called "spread spectrum" techniques. Where the signal undergoes fast Fourier transforms and is parceled out to different frequencies so they would not appear on a single carrier frequency. You would then need a decoder to reassemble the message. I worked briefly on a "vocoder" for the Army almost 50 years ago.

I think that we established that we couldn't detect such a signal from aliens since there are no planets suitable for intelligent life within around 20 light years anyway. Such signals would be low power and would not be intentionally beamed high power messages from across the Galaxy.

Many of us believe, after 50 years, that eavesdropping on alien transmissions is not possible since there are no close-by aliens that are communicating amongst themselves as far as we can find.

Therefore we are hoping for a high-powered beacon with a purposive message that that some civilization exists and would like to hear back in a long long time. Such a missive would not be more encrypted than well-known modulation techniques.
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Message 1727510 - Posted: 21 Sep 2015, 11:13:00 UTC

“If you look at encrypted communication, if they are properly encrypted, there is no real way to tell that they are encrypted. You can’t distinguish a properly encrypted communication from random behaviour...

“So if you have an an alien civilization trying to listen for other civilizations or our civilization trying to listen for aliens, there’s only one small period in the development of their society when all their communication will be sent via the most primitive and most unprotected means.”

He also pointed out that properly encrypted alien signals could also be “indistinguishable to us from cosmic microwave background radiation”. But deGrasse Tyson has a witty retort to that particular warning: “Only if they have the same security problems as us.” Funny, because it’s true.

http://gizmodo.com/edward-snowden-advanced-encryption-may-stop-us-communi-1732027566
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Message 1727538 - Posted: 21 Sep 2015, 13:40:58 UTC - in response to Message 1727510.  

The point is that intentional "Hello-we are here" messages are not likely to be encrypted.
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Message 1727599 - Posted: 21 Sep 2015, 17:47:54 UTC

This has as much relevant value to the search process as discussion of FTL or interdimensional travel.
It might be true, but so what? It doesn't help.
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Message 1728739 - Posted: 25 Sep 2015, 6:55:40 UTC

while a 'hi there' message may not be encrypted in the sender' s eyes it would be unintelligible to anyone without the use of a bablefish or similar device.
Bob Smith
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Message 1728754 - Posted: 25 Sep 2015, 8:35:19 UTC

if a radio signal is: L + R = 2L
what if aliens do it: L + R = 2R ?
:D

and a list goes on! ;)

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Message 1728791 - Posted: 25 Sep 2015, 13:28:12 UTC - in response to Message 1728739.  
Last modified: 25 Sep 2015, 13:36:46 UTC

The "Message" if it ever comes is likely to be a video frame. Probably a digital one with a key given to establish the length of a single scan line. There would probably be a pre-amble that we have discussed many times--perhaps a counting out of the prime numbers or the first 50 digits of Pi. All we would need is to be able to detect a single bit transition (on-off) and to have the proper frame of reference to receive and decode the message. Simplicity is the key here and I'll bet that any advanced civilization such as ours would adhere to this principle. Sort of an inter-galactic Occam's razor.

Such a signal should pop up above the noise under auto and cross correlation. If are correct in assuming the form of the message then we would have a much better chance of recognizing a true one when it arrived.

In this way there might just be a way around any language barrier.

This message would probably repeat. At microwave frequencies only a few seconds could allow for repetition of the message. Let's hope that we could capture it and recognize it as being purposively different from cosmic noise.

.
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Message 1728851 - Posted: 25 Sep 2015, 17:42:04 UTC - in response to Message 1728791.  

If we ever do get in on the conversation it wouldn't surprise me if the most common language in the universe is simply pictures.
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Message 1729742 - Posted: 28 Sep 2015, 8:39:16 UTC

was just about that with my friend yesterday, explaining to him that if we found a signal...it would still be a signal...
encrypted, yes! but distinctive signal in RF spectrum!
;)

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Message 1729775 - Posted: 28 Sep 2015, 13:22:53 UTC - in response to Message 1729742.  
Last modified: 28 Sep 2015, 13:25:53 UTC

I don't think that you mean "Encrypted" to be an attempt to hide the message from all but the intended receiver. I think that you mean that a purposive "hello" message would be Formatted in an easily decipherable way.

I see no logic in assuming that such a message would be encrypted in such a way as to hide it.
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Message 1729787 - Posted: 28 Sep 2015, 14:28:39 UTC - in response to Message 1729775.  

I don't think that you mean "Encrypted" to be an attempt to hide the message from all but the intended receiver. I think that you mean that a purposive "hello" message would be Formatted in an easily decipherable way.

I see no logic in assuming that such a message would be encrypted in such a way as to hide it.

I agree. It seems logical that if someone creates a beacon signal to attract other sentient beings they will make it as easy to identify as something other than noise or a natural phenomena. To me that means some kind of mathematical sequence such as the primes or a fibonacci series. To anyone listening that has a brain that is at least as intelligent as the human brain that would trigger the search alarms.

It doesn't seem very likely that we will ever cross the path of a narrow beam encrypted message intended as private communication between two worlds, a world and a space ship or two space ships.
Bob DeWoody

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Message 1729863 - Posted: 28 Sep 2015, 18:34:26 UTC - in response to Message 1729742.  

was just about that with my friend yesterday, explaining to him that if we found a signal...it would still be a signal...
encrypted, yes! but distinctive signal in RF spectrum!
;)

I was thinking the same thing - to us any real alien signal sent in an alien language is effectively encrypted anyway, but we would know it's a real signal if we picked it up.
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Message 1730010 - Posted: 29 Sep 2015, 6:04:22 UTC - in response to Message 1729787.  

I don't think that you mean "Encrypted" to be an attempt to hide the message from all but the intended receiver. I think that you mean that a purposive "hello" message would be Formatted in an easily decipherable way.

I see no logic in assuming that such a message would be encrypted in such a way as to hide it.

I agree. It seems logical that if someone creates a beacon signal to attract other sentient beings they will make it as easy to identify as something other than noise or a natural phenomena. To me that means some kind of mathematical sequence such as the primes or a fibonacci series. To anyone listening that has a brain that is at least as intelligent as the human brain that would trigger the search alarms.

It doesn't seem very likely that we will ever cross the path of a narrow beam encrypted message intended as private communication between two worlds, a world and a space ship or two space ships.

If someone in the neighborhood was aware of us and of what type of transmissions we use to communicate with our probes and landers, and they send us a signal that looks just like one of ours - could we be dismissing it because we're assuming it's local chatter?
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Message 1730033 - Posted: 29 Sep 2015, 7:43:56 UTC - in response to Message 1730010.  

I don't think that you mean "Encrypted" to be an attempt to hide the message from all but the intended receiver. I think that you mean that a purposive "hello" message would be Formatted in an easily decipherable way.

I see no logic in assuming that such a message would be encrypted in such a way as to hide it.

I agree. It seems logical that if someone creates a beacon signal to attract other sentient beings they will make it as easy to identify as something other than noise or a natural phenomena. To me that means some kind of mathematical sequence such as the primes or a fibonacci series. To anyone listening that has a brain that is at least as intelligent as the human brain that would trigger the search alarms.

It doesn't seem very likely that we will ever cross the path of a narrow beam encrypted message intended as private communication between two worlds, a world and a space ship or two space ships.

If someone in the neighborhood was aware of us and of what type of transmissions we use to communicate with our probes and landers, and they send us a signal that looks just like one of ours - could we be dismissing it because we're assuming it's local chatter?

The equipment we have today can distinguish between local communications and a signal from outside our solar system.
Bob DeWoody

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Message 1730053 - Posted: 29 Sep 2015, 12:48:34 UTC - in response to Message 1729775.  

I don't think that you mean "Encrypted" to be an attempt to hide the message from all but the intended receiver. I think that you mean that a purposive "hello" message would be Formatted in an easily decipherable way.

I see no logic in assuming that such a message would be encrypted in such a way as to hide it.

we encrypt our satellite program for viewing, don't we?
& we don't says HELLO around a Globe all d time...

so why do u think their will be different?


SETi@home is searching for a SIGNAL...decrypting it will be another task!

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Message 1730081 - Posted: 29 Sep 2015, 13:58:32 UTC - in response to Message 1730053.  
Last modified: 29 Sep 2015, 14:34:43 UTC

KLiK, my son,

It is important for you to distinguish in your mind two very Different Things.

1. Eaves dropping on a transmission on another planet that may well be encrypted but is likely to be low powered and possibly deeply encrypted. It is unlikely that we will ever receive such a message here on Earth. I say this because there are no known habitable planets within tens of light years, we could not hear low powered general transmissions at these distances and we have been listening for more than 50 years to no avail. Snowden was right in saying that possible transmissions of this type could use spread spectrum encoding that would make such a message indistinguishable from noise without a keyed decoder. What the problem with the interpretation and the significance of this remark is that we couldn't hear any such message encrypted or not at any distance beyond what we feel there are no habitable planets.

2. Receiving a purposely focused beacon-type broadcast that says we are here and here is where we are. Such a message is not likely to be encrypted since the sender is not trying to protect the message from prying ears. Quite the contrary. This is the type of message that we all hope for in the current era of SETI.

Capisce

This is what I believe is reasonable to expect. Since I am not an astronomer, exo-biologist and no longer a microwave specialist I could be proven wrong tomorrow--but for now I will go with what I think are the perceived and logical odds
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Message 1730085 - Posted: 29 Sep 2015, 14:03:02 UTC - in response to Message 1730053.  

so why do u think their will be different?


If all of the "THEYS" are no different from us in the regard of your statement then we are all engaged in a royal waste of time and energy.
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Message 1730290 - Posted: 30 Sep 2015, 7:57:47 UTC - in response to Message 1730081.  
Last modified: 30 Sep 2015, 8:02:10 UTC

KLiK, my son,

It is important for you to distinguish in your mind two very Different Things.

1. Eaves dropping on a transmission on another planet that may well be encrypted but is likely to be low powered and possibly deeply encrypted. It is unlikely that we will ever receive such a message here on Earth. I say this because there are no known habitable planets within tens of light years, we could not hear low powered general transmissions at these distances and we have been listening for more than 50 years to no avail. Snowden was right in saying that possible transmissions of this type could use spread spectrum encoding that would make such a message indistinguishable from noise without a keyed decoder. What the problem with the interpretation and the significance of this remark is that we couldn't hear any such message encrypted or not at any distance beyond what we feel there are no habitable planets.

2. Receiving a purposely focused beacon-type broadcast that says we are here and here is where we are. Such a message is not likely to be encrypted since the sender is not trying to protect the message from prying ears. Quite the contrary. This is the type of message that we all hope for in the current era of SETI.

Capisce

This is what I believe is reasonable to expect. Since I am not an astronomer, exo-biologist and no longer a microwave specialist I could be proven wrong tomorrow--but for now I will go with what I think are the perceived and logical odds

Vader, my father?!

- well, if we don't use a spread spectrum in ALL OUR communication, why would they? :/

- within a 50ly there r several exoplanets within habitable zone:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_potentially_habitable_exoplanets#Table

- all other communications are probably within a noise spectrum...as a radio receiver we use (Arecibo) can only hear good anything up to 30ly!
to poke more, we need a bigger dish (array)!
;)


so why do u think their will be different?


If all of the "THEYS" are no different from us in the regard of your statement then we are all engaged in a royal waste of time and energy.

well, they don't have to be humanoids...so sort of different species can they be?! not even carbon based...

but they could still use water...their water will drop in same drops...their star will be round...so probably their radio waves produced would not be so different from ours (& not in different ranges of Hz for same distances), even though their equipment might be totally different!
;)

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Message 1730337 - Posted: 30 Sep 2015, 14:12:55 UTC
Last modified: 30 Sep 2015, 14:14:20 UTC

well, if we don't use a spread spectrum in ALL OUR communication, why would they? :/


My point was: regardless of encryption or not we would be highly unlikely to hear extra-terrestrial communications at the distance that such a civilization (if it exists) would be from the planet Earth. I am speaking of communications among these extra terrestrials themselves.

We could detect a high powered focused beam that happened to hit the Earth. These two are very different.
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