Humans send out a lot of signals. We’ve got cell phones, wi-fi, broadcast TV and radio, even communications bounced through space via satellite. But could anyone listen in on those? Tune an ear in from a neighboring galaxy, and discover billions of humans waiting here to say hi?
Well, no, according to a new study reported by Vice. But, with the proliferation of 5G and satellite internet services, that all might be changing.
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The study comes from the University of Mauritius, where Ramiro Saide and his team have been researching human “radio leakage” into space. The phenomenon hasn’t been given much in-depth thought in decades, since a time when rabbit ears dominated the world, so Saide’s team thought the research warranted an update.
As it turns out, they were right. Broadcast TV is now a much smaller percentage of what we throw into the ether, supplanted by new technology like mobile phones. But just because the technology has changed, it doesn’t mean we’re any more likely to be found by extraterrestrial intelligence — Saide’s team found that current cell phone transmissions are too weak to be detected by even the nearest habitable stars.
But that all may change soon. Further reliance on satellite internet systems, like Starlink, leads us to leak more and more radio waves beyond our atmosphere. The proliferation of 5G, too, boosts our output power—and the chances that someday, someone else will find us. Let’s just hope they don’t end up using those satellites against us.