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SETI Technology Milestones

A Century of Technical Progress 


The purpose of this page is to show the evidence proving that there were no technological reasons why Optical SETI could not have been main-streamed in the United States in the early 70's.  There are only two possibilities why it took 37 years for this to happen.

1.  The technology wasn't available to conduct such research.

2.  Cult of personality and politics got in the way of science.

Sad to say, it will be shown that the latter is the only viable explanation, one that is described elsewhere on this Web site and involved the big names in SETI.  Main-stream SETI has stated that only recently has the technology been available to undertake Optical SETI.  While it is true that recent developments in electronics has produced faster chips and lowered their cost, there hasn't been an impediment to undertake fast pulsed beacon type of Optical SETI for several decades now.  Clearly, there has not been a problem undertaking continuous wave beacon Optical SETI, since high resolution spectrographs have been available for years.  Since the favored type of Optical SETI research, as first described by Monte Ross in 1965, is looking for short pulsed laser beacons, what we basically need to show to disprove this lie is that the technology has been available for many years.  Rather than expect the reader to call photonic experts or dig up old text and catalogues, the evidence is presented below.

Although solid-state high-sensitivity photon-detecting devices, otherwise known as avalanche photodetectors or APDs,  have been available for the visible and near-infrared for the better part of 25 years, only the photomultiplier tube (PMT) has been around a long time with the desired sensitivity, low noise and speed.  Thus, the aim of this page is to demonstrate that PMTs were available for fast photon-counting in the 60's and 70's.  Indeed, fast PMTs predate the invention of the laser!  This evidence is presented in the form of links and scanned pages from PMT manufacturers of that vintage.  Fortunately, Stuart Kingsley still has a large collection of such catalogues!

Even the late Carl Sagan, a scientist who would be the first to state that for ideas to be accepted by the general scientific community they had to be founded on correct science and knowledge, appears to have fudged the issue in deference to the late Barney Oliver.  For a long time I had put this down to "One of the Great Mysteries of the Universe".  But how else to explain his ambivalence to Optical SETI in the 90's, when he was very open to it in the 60's?


First Posted: October 22, 2000

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