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The cosmic gorilla effect or the problem of undetected non terrestrial intelligent signals


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This article points to a long lasting problem in space research and cosmology, the problem of undetected signs of non terrestrial life and civilizations. We intentionally avoid the term extraterrestrial as we consider other possibilities that may arise but not fall strictly within the extraterrestrial scope. We discuss the role of new physics including dark matter and string theory in the search for life and other non terrestrial intelligence. A new classification for non terrestrial civilizations with three types and five dimensions is also provided. We also explain how our own neurophysiology, psychology and consciousness can play a major role in this search of non terrestrial civilizations task and how they have been neglected up to this date. To test this, 137 adults were evaluated using the cognitive reflection test, an attention/awareness questionnaire and a visuospatial searching task with aerial view images to determine the presence of inattentional blindness.
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The cosmic gorilla effect or the problem of undetected non terrestrial
intelligent signals
Gabriel G. De la Torre
, Manuel A. Garcia
University of Cadiz, Department of Psychology, Campus Rio San Pedro, Puerto Real, 11510, Cadiz, Spain
Dark matter
This article points to a long lasting problem in space research and cosmology, the problem of undetected signs of
non terrestrial life and civilizations. We intentionally avoid the term extraterrestrial as we consider other pos-
sibilities that may arise but not fall strictly within the extraterrestrial scope. We discuss the role of new physics
including dark matter and string theory in the search for life and other non terrestrial intelligence. A new clas-
sication for non terrestrial civilizations with three types and ve dimensions is also provided. We also explain
how our own neurophysiology, psychology and consciousness can play a major role in this search of non
terrestrial civilizations task and how they have been neglected up to this date. To test this, 137 adults were
evaluated using the cognitive reection test, an attention/awareness questionnaire and a visuospatial searching
task with aerial view images to determine the presence of inattentional blindness.
1. Introduction
The size of one thumb held at arm's length is small but covers the
Coma cluster in the night sky. The Coma cluster consists of approximately
1000 galaxies spreading over two degrees on the sky or the thumb's eld.
The rst quantitative case for dark matter in the Coma galaxy cluster was
made in 1933 by the Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky at the California
Institute of Technology [1]. Since then, our understanding of the total
amount of dark matter and its overall distribution has increased. Dark
matter constitutes 85% of the matter in the universe, the rest is made up
of baryonic matter (i.e., ordinary matter, including protons and neutrons)
[2]. In addition to dark and baryonic matter, which combined make up
32% of the known universe and produce gravitational attraction, the
remaining 68% of the universe, referred to as dark energy, appears to
oppose gravitational attraction and, in fact, seems to be accelerating the
expansion of the universe.
Current research in physics proposes various candidates for dark
matter, ranging from the so-called weakly interacting massive particles
(WIMPs) to polarization of the quantum vacuum [3]. WIMPs are thought
to have masses around the electroweak scale and are weakly interacting
with baryonic matter with lifetimes comparable or larger than the age of
our universe. Their existence is predicted by several models in particle
physics, such as supersymmetry and models with universal or warped
extra dimensions; however, there is no conclusive direct evidence for
their existence yet [2].
Dark matter has not attracted much attention in search for extrater-
restrial intelligence (SETI) research to this date. Currently, most efforts to
nd extraterrestrial intelligence are carried out by SETI using the radio
signal detection approach but with no success so far. In a recent repre-
sentative effort, The Breakthrough Listen Initiative [4] searched for
engineered signals with observations made over 1.11.9 GHz (L band)
from a sample of 692 nearby stars using the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank
Telescope with negative result. More recently, active SETI approach has
been brought forward consisting in sending signals instead of the passive
detection approach. Both focus the research on the radio hypotheses and
methods of contact. Latest SETI efforts, known as the near-infrared op-
tical search for extraterrestrial intelligence [5], are focusing on the
infrared band of the spectrum; however, as we mentioned before, silence
Other hypotheses or methods have been proposed in the last years,
including Dyson spheres detection, Bracewell probes possibility, and,
more recently, the Planck energy and cosmic engineers hypotheses [6].
All these hypotheses except the last one, to an extent, have something in
common in the physics of directly observable universe or known uni-
verse. Radio and optical telescopes use focusing optics searching for
articial signals within the eld of view of the primary targets, hoping
that extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) happen to lie in those directions
[68]. In today's radio telescope communication approach used by SETI,
* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (G. G. De la Torre).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
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Received 20 November 2017; Received in revised form 21 February 2018; Accepted 22 February 2018
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Acta Astronautica 146 (2018) 8391
for example, the rate of information transmission produced by specic
transmitter and under specic noise distribution is determined by the
corresponding ShannonHartley theorem:
C¼B* log
(1 þS/n),
Where Cis the achievable channel capacity, Bis the bandwidth, Sis the
average signal power, and nthe average noise power.
There are currently two common arguments against the existence
of ETI. The evolutionary argument goes back to Alfred Wallace, with
Darwin, the codiscoverer of the principle of natural selection. The
second is the Fermi paradox of Enrico Fermi. Theoretical approaches
in the search for life in the universe have been based on the study of
the physical conditions necessary for the appearance and evolution of
life to the point of intelligent civilizations. In this direction, physical
laws determine the possibilities. Physics has progressed enough during
these years to revise and maybe repostulate some paradigms in the
search for life in the universe and even in the search of other intelli-
gence in the universe. First, the mere conceptualization of extrater-
restrials as a life form coming from the distant parts of our known
universe may be inherently wrong and contains anthropomorphic
considerations that we need to overcome. Second, dismissing our own
neurobiology, psychology, and consciousness factors puts us in the
same wrong direction. During the last years, we have seen a great
progress in the understanding of the structure of our universe. We now
have evidence that the majority of the matter that forms galaxies,
clusters of galaxies, and the largest observed structures in the universe
is nonluminous, or dark. Accurate measurements of the galactic rota-
tion curves and orbital velocities of individual galaxies, de-
terminations of the cluster mass via gravitational lensing, and precise
measurements of the cosmic microwave background uctuations all
support this hypothesis. Search for WIMPs is now underway; however,
terrestrial direct detection experiments, designed to detect nuclear
recoils from collisions with dark matter particles in the galactic halo,
provide likely our best hope to detect dark matter [9]. The indirect
dark matter detection focuses on rare components in charged cosmic
rays (CRs) [10] as well as in gamma rays, and, more generally, in
multiwavelength photons [1113]. For the investigation of these
annihilation products, ground-based telescopes, balloon-borne de-
tectors, and space-based experiments are being used. The charged CRs
eventually reach the Earth after diffusing in the galactic magnetic
elds [10]. The prospects of exploring the electroweak scale in the
Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have focused the dark matter searches on
the WIMP paradigm in the last few years, and the experimental
community has devoted relatively little effort to explore other possi-
bilities. As with SETI search for radio signals from extraterrestrial
civilizations, the LHC direct searches for WIMP dark matter has no
success to this date. A number of small-scale experiments at the
low-energy, high-intensity frontier, such as haloscopes, helioscopes,
and light-shining-through-a-wall experiments, are actively searching
for these elusive particles [13], complementing searches for physics
beyond the standard model at the high-energy frontier.
Some researchers have theorized that communication from ETI may
show up in the form of communication from another dimension of space
[14]. This would allow ETI to eliminate the problems with radio signal
power loss and attenuation across vast distances of our three spatial di-
mensions. Modern M-theory and string theories have included up to 11
dimensions of space, which might allow for this communication to occur.
In fact, gravity might be weak because it propagates from other di-
mensions of space to ours.
On the one hand, we have the SETI approach; on the other hand, we
have the new physics endeavor of searching for new particles and dark
matter. What if these two scientic research elds were related beyond
our current hypotheses or focus in the topic? What if human factors or
biopsychological aspects are biasing this scientic task?
Dan Simons and Christopher Chabris [15] popularized a phenomenon
of human perception known as inattentional blindness. In the best
known version of the experiment, volunteers were told to keep track of
how many times some basketball players tossed a basketball. While they
did this, someone in a gorilla suit walked across the basketball court, in
plain view, yet many of the volunteers failed even to notice the gorilla
(Fig. 1). The invisible gorilla experiment shows that if we are paying very
close attention to one thing, we often miss other things in our eld of
vision, even those very obvious. Many current scientic tasks still depend
on human intervention, for example remote sensing image analysis
where it is inevitable, even crucial [16].
We are going to expose in this paper some new research hypotheses
that the SETI research should contemplate in light of the new twenty-rst
century physics and cognitive psychology.
Fig. 1. Inattentional blindness experiment.
Image credit: Dr. D.J. Simons [15].
G. G. De la Torre, M.A. Garcia Acta Astronautica 146 (2018) 8391
1.1. Dark matter, ETI and NTI
It is estimated that 13.7 billion years ago, our universe contained 63%
of dark matter instead of the 27% that we can measure today. It is also
understood that dark matter densities appear to vary throughout the
universe. If indeed dark energy is the energy of the quantum vacuum, this
would make the case for the weak anthropic principle. The latter states
that in order for life to exist as we know it in baryonic form, the vacuum
conditions have to allow for it. Areas of the universe with vacuum energy
densities above a critical density, such as the early universe, may be too
harsh for life as we know it to exist. It would stand to reason that life as
we know it would evolve in an intimate relationship with dark matter in
the universe. The local vacuum energy density in the observable universe
must be such that life can take hold.
It is reasonably to think that advanced civilizations ETI or more
precisely non terrestrial intelligence (NTI) will either have mastered dark
matter or possibly be composed of it. A multiverse of a somewhat
different kind has been envisaged within string theory and its higher
dimensional extension, M-theory. These theories require the presence of
10 and 11 spacetime dimensions, respectively. The extra six or seven
dimensions may either be compactied on a very small scale, or our
universe may simply be localized on a dynamical multidimensional ob-
ject such as a D-brane. It is possible that there are other branes that could
support other universes[24]. This is unlike the universes in the
quantum multiverse; however, both concepts can operate at the same
time. Here we can introduce the possibility of some forms of intelligences
existing in these other dimensions falling in a more accurate terminology
of nonterrestrial intelligence (NTI) rather than traditional ETI nomen-
clature. The term ETI refers to extraterrestrial Intelligence, commonly
associated to civilizations populating other planets or solar systems.
However NTI refers to Non Terrestrial Intelligence in a more eclectic
approach including interdimensional capable civilizations.
1.2. Radio and energy ETI classications
Radio communication has drastically changed our world, allowing for
light-speed communication across the globe. The assumption up to this
point has been that other advanced species would also use this electro-
magnetic spectrum to communicate. Recently, many scientists have
become alarmed to nd that electromagnetic radiation at low levels may
have many detrimental effects on biology [1719]. If this is the case, then
why would an advanced civilization use this form of communication? In
the best case scenario possible, we may establish contact with another
civilization very similar to us using this method. In the worst case sce-
nario, they could interpret this radio signal as an aggression. For
example, the physical healing of wounds is expedited by sleep and sleep
strengthens the immune system [20]. Radiation may affect sleep quality
[21,22]. Our species evolved to sleep during the night probably to repair
radiation damage among other known reasons. It is reasonable to think
that more advanced civilizations would not use harmful methods of
communication or technology to communicate, and other alternatives
should be contemplated in the search of ETI in the universe. Having been
insisting on the same old methods and ideas for decades now, the current
scientic community seems very oppositional to new views and para-
digms. As a novelty, only a few new insights have been brought forward
such as Active SETI initiative, which in essence is the same SETI scientic
approach but in an opposite direction. Active SETI also has big ethics
inconsistencies and dangers not appropriately addressed to this date by
the scientic community [23].
Known intelligent civilization classications to this date account for
energy consumption as a key factor. According to these classication
models, the total quantity of energy expended by all mankind per second
at present time is about 4 10
erg with an increase of 5% every 75
years. Kardashev [25] proposed the rst serious although questionable
effort to classify possible ETI civilizations. He proposed three types of
civilizations: Type I civilizations with technological levels close to ours
on Earth with energy consumption at approximately 4 10
Type II civilizations capable of harnessing the energy radiated by its own
star (stage compatible to the construction of Dyson spheres) and energy
consumption at approximately 4 10
erg/sec; nally, Type III civili-
zations with energy capacity scale of their own galaxy and a consumption
rate of approximately 4 10
erg/sec (Table 1).
Carl Sagan [26] suggested dening intermediate values (not consid-
ered in Kardashev's original scale) by interpolating and extrapolating the
values given above for Type I (10
W), II (10
W), and III (10
civilizations, which would result in the formula K-log
P-6/10, where K
is a civilization's Kardashev rating and Pis the power it uses in watts.
Further additions to this scale were made with type IV [27] with the
power of controlling the energy output of the entire universe, and type V
of the multiple universes. Moreover, Kaku [28] described a type V civi-
lization with the power of controlling over dark energy. Finally, a slightly
different classication made by Barrow [29] on microdimensional
mastery describes up to seven types of civilizations based on the ability to
manipulate dimensions of matter with the type VII, or the so-called Type
Omega-minus, being able to control the spacetime structure. Barrow
located Earth at the current moment between III and IV of his classi-
cation. We have discussed above how current search of ETI is clearly
tainted by our own psychological and neurophysiological nature. How-
ever, thinking in much broader schemes may be of help in this scientic
task. According to Kardashev [25](Table 1), some ETI might have
reached a point of evolution or technological development that will make
them able to create and exploit planetary scale bodies, energy, and, most
surely, dark matter and spacetime, making them look like having some
God quality to our understanding. How will we recognize a Dyson sphere
or an articial planetary scale megastructure? The only possible answer
to this question is that we expect this sphere or artifact to have certain
articial characteristics. Articiality is dened by Oxford Dictionaries as
the quality of being made or produced by human beings rather than
occurring naturally. However, if we look for articial structures or signs,
our mind can easily get confused when confronted with the unexpected
that left us bewildered (see Fig. 2) until we nd an explanation. What if
some articial megastructure of a Type VI civilization, as it has been
previously mentioned [27], is so natural alike that we cannot detect it?
Moreover, what if the scale of these megastructures makes it difcult for
our limited grey matter wired minds to see them or even understand
them because we only expect radio signals?
The existing classications are mainly based on energy consumption
and technological variables as we mentioned above. Here, we present a
new classication and try to cover other possible domains or character-
istics of these civilizations. This new classication also represents an
anthropomorphic view of the problem, but we try to cover other domains
in the most eclectic perspective possible to this date. We describe three
basic types of civilizations that represent a gradually increasing
complexity path from 1 to 3. We include a lter or selection barrier
consisting in self-destruction or destruction by natural causes. Only those
successful civilizations surviving this hypernatural selection process will
gain Type 2 and/or Type 3 in the scale. Mankind would fall in the edge
end of Type 1 era at this moment.
Some scientists say we are now in the Anthropocene Era [30]in
which human activities impact Earth's conditions in a remarkable way.
However, we should question if some of those human effects are not
Table 1
Kardashev scale.
Order of magnitude of power available
Type 1 410
erg/sec (4 10
Almost current Earth level
Type 2 410
erg/sec (4 10
Entire star energy radiation output
Type 3 410
erg/sec (4 10
Entire galaxy energy radiation output
G. G. De la Torre, M.A. Garcia Acta Astronautica 146 (2018) 8391
overestimated and cosmic events underestimated. Type 1 civilizations or
prelter would depend much on the natural environment for survival and
biological evolution, although manipulation of the environmental vari-
ables could be present to a different degree. The enhancement of species
in the form of machines, articial intelligence, and some basic genetic
modications could give them a glimpse of ulterior levels of development
and survival. However, the lack of global cosmic consciousness [23]
maturity can make them too fragile and unaware of global threats. These
types of civilizations would clearly be ephemeral. Only those surpassing
the annihilation of a hypernatural selection lter could get into the long
lasting and advanced Type 2 and 3 civilization stages. Annihilation
processes for Type 1 civilizations can be cyclical since the disappearance
of civilizations does not necessarily mean the annihilation of life on a
planet (Table 2). Type 2 civilizations can be cosmic survivalists, colo-
nizers, and explorers able to manipulate physics and biology to a great
extent, while Type 3 civilizations would go deep into the unknown of our
reasoning capacity with certain godlike characteristics such as multidi-
mensional travel and dark matter/dark energy mastery capabilities.
Searching through radio telescopes will probably limit our success to
Type 1 civilizations.
2. Methods
In order to test the hypotheses of cognitive processing style inuence
on the search of NTI we performed an experiment consisting in a simple
spatial search task. 137 participants were tested. Demographics of the
sample can be seen in Table 3. The task consisted of looking at aerial
pictures, some of them contained articial structures manmade and
others were natural. In one of the naturalistic pictures (10 15 cm) we
inserted an image of man in a gorilla costume but reduced on size for this
purpose to a 3 mm scaled version (see Fig. 3).
Prior to the Gorilla task, participants had to respond to a question-
naire composed of two sections. First section consisted of the Cognitive
Reection Test (CRT) and the second part consisted of a short ques-
tionnaire extracted from the IF65 [23]. PAQ-15 short questionnaire
consisted on 15 questions in total that need to be answered within a
Likert scale. Participants voluntary performed the CRT, PAQ-15 and the
search task with 4 aerial view pictures. They were not previously
Fig. 2. a) Bright Spots in Ceres. Occator crater. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. b) Square or Cube inside an isosceles triangle (right to the main bright formation). Detail
image was only augmented not processed.
Source Image:
Table 2
5 Factors Classication of Civilizations. Age is included only for reference in years but it is not considered a factor itself.
Self/Natural Annihilation Filter Hypernatural Selection
G. G. De la Torre, M.A. Garcia Acta Astronautica 146 (2018) 8391
informed on the nature of the tasks to avoid excessive alert disposition
towards the attentional task.
2.1. CRT
The Cognitive Reection Test (CRT [37]; is designed to measure the
tendency to override a prepotent response alternative that is incorrect
and to engage in further reection that leads to the correct response. The
CRT appears to also implicate thinking dispositionsparticularly those
related to reectivity, the tendency to engage in fully disjunctive
reasoning, and the tendency to seek alternative solutions.
Taken from Ref. [37]; this test is composed of three questions, as
(a) A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs a dollar more
than the ball. How much does the ball cost? ____ cents
(b) If it takes 5 machines 5 min to make 5 widgets, how long would it
take 100 machines to make 100 widgets? ____ min
(c) In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles
in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake,
how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake? ____
The correct responses for the three questions are 5 cents, 5 min and 47
days. What characterizes these problems is that a quick, intuitive answer
springs to mind, but that this quick answer is incorrect. The key to
deriving the correct solution is to suppress and/or evaluate the rst so-
lution that springs to mind [37]. However it is interesting to note that
under a decision making perspective and according to Frederick original
postulates, people with higher CRT scores are more conservative in a risk
taking task. In Frederick's study they were more willing to accept a sure
loss to avoid playing a gamble with lower (more negative) expected
According to [37]; there are two general types of cognitive activity
called system 1and system 2.System 1 corresponds to quick answer
without reection, while system 2 requires conscious thought and effort.
The three questions of the test have an obvious but incorrect response
given by system 1. The correct response requires the activation of system
Based on CRT characteristics we may think that higher CRT scores
(system 2) should correlate with high probability of detecting the gorilla
in the picture as an initial hypotheses.
2.2. Perception and attention questionnaire (PAQ-15)
Participants responded to a questionnaire of 11 questions taken from
original questionnaire used before by Ref. [23]. This questionnaire
contained items about attention and awareness in daily life activities,
organizational skills, Maths skills, Astronomy knowledge, interests in
Nature and habits such watching TV and empathy. The 4 additional items
Table 3
Demographic data of the sample. Field of Study: 1: Sciences, 2: Health Sciences, 3: Social Sciences, 4: Humanities, 5: Engineering, 6: Other.
Age Sex Education Field of Study
1825 2635 3645 >45 male female Univ. High School 1 2 3 4 5 6
N 113 14 7 3 30 107 120 17 7 59 40 4 12 15
% 82.5 10.2 5.1 2.2 21.9 78.1 87.6 12.4 5.1 43.1 29.2 2.9 8.8 10.9
Fig. 3. Aerial image example used in the study with gorilla marked by red square.
G. G. De la Torre, M.A. Garcia Acta Astronautica 146 (2018) 8391
about belief in ufos, dark matter awareness, religion beliefs and belief in
life in the universe were also added ad hoc for this study.
3. Results
We wanted to see which system 1 or 2 in CRT determined the success
in the gorilla detection. Our initial hypotheses stated that system 2 would
be the successful one. We proposed to study this using Binary logistic
regression procedure and look into possible role of the other variables as
well. Descriptive cross-tab analysis was performed to look into signicant
differences between PAQ-15 questionnaire variables and Gorilla detec-
tion. Finally we did a multidimensional scaling (PROXSCAL) to see how
all variables organized together and to have a better understanding in a
graphical view.
24.8% (34) participants scored as System 1 cognitive prole on CRT
while 75.2% (103) fell in system 2 category. Only 32.8% (45 of the 137)
participants identied the gorilla in the picture (16 out of 34 in system 1
and 29 out of 103 in system 2). Chi Square test was performed to see if
there were differences between both systems of CRT cognitive styles and
the detection of the gorilla. The CRT cognitive styles signicantly
differed in the ability of detecting the gorilla (C
(1, N ¼137) ¼4.141,
p¼.036). Curiously for the rest of variables (PAQ-15) only organiza-
tional skills resulted statistically signicant but in the same direction
than CRT results. Those with higher scores in organizational skills item
failed more in the gorilla detection. Organizational skills showed sig-
nicant difference score (C
(4, N ¼137) ¼10.009, p <.040).
In order to determine the prediction value of the CRT cognitive styles
in regard of the gorilla detection variable and the PAQ-15 questionnaire
items a logistic regression was calculated. Previously, collinearity was
tested using Pearson's correlation matrix for all indices of the question-
naire with negative result (Table 4). The logistic regression model was
statistically signicant, X
(1) ¼15.454, p <.001. The model explained
the 80% (Nagelkerke R
) of the variance and correctly classied 67.9% of
the cases (Tables 5 and 6).
In order to see how the different variables used in the PAQ-15
questionnaire grouped in around the gorilla detection variable in a
more visual manner we performed a multidimensional scaling (PROXS-
CAL) representation. Multidimensional scaling attempts to nd the
structure in a set of proximity measures between objects. This process is
performed by assigning obtained values to specic locations in a con-
ceptual low-dimensional space such that the distances between points in
the space match the given (dis)similarities as closely as possible. In this
exploratory analysis we observed how dark matter, life in universe fol-
lowed by religious beliefs and ufos appeared closer in space to the gorilla
in comparison to Maths, attention or organizational skills (Fig. 4).
4. Discussion
Grey matter represents a major component of the central nervous
system, consisting mainly of neuronal cell bodies, neuropil, and glial
cells. Grey matter serves to process information in the brain. Recent
studies have posited that the universe may grow like a giant brain (cos-
mic network), pointing to some similarities between cosmos organization
and our own brain structure [31]. Nevertheless, we can be sure that our
understanding of the cosmos depends on our brain nature, physiology,
and nally our mind and consciousness.
If we decide to look for signals of ETI or more precisely NTI, we have
to analyze different factors regarding not only the technology to be used
and the types of messages or signs themselves; however, most impor-
tantly, the human and nonhuman psychobiological participating vari-
ables. We have focused most of the research to this date on the
technological factors, but not that much on the latter factors. Current
silence from other NTI can be caused by different factors, including (1)
wrong technological approaches, (2) our own unawareness because of
intrinsic human limitations such as cognition, social aspects, and biology,
(3) ETI or NTI nature and intentions. It has been exposed [23] how
different psychobiological, cultural, and technological aspects may in-
uence and modulate our efforts in the search for ETI or NTI signs.
All current efforts in the search for ETI signals or signs forget to ac-
count for our own factors, this is, how we perform the task, what our
expectations are, how we think about it and perceive our environmental
clues, what we pay attention to, and most importantly what conscious-
ness levels we have achieved as a species to understand this big leap in
human evolution. Human attention is very limited because our percep-
tion capabilities are limited to a narrow band of the electromagnetic
spectrum and we know that our brain builds our own version of reality.
Some of our technology made it possible to widen that spectrum band;
however, that does not mean we found the responses we were looking
for. Frontal lobes in the brain are responsible for executive functions and
decision making, but they are also very important in attention and ac-
tions. In all conscious events, even those involving very primitive ele-
ments, at least some attentional resources are necessary.
When people perform a selective looking or searching task by
devoting attention to some aspects of a display while ignoring others,
they often fail to notice unexpected information in the display. This
phenomenon was studied in the 1970s by Ulric Neisser [32,33], now
named inattentional blindness[15,34] and became very popular
thanks to the gorilla experiment described before.
Familiarity with the task and the presence of a gorillaactually de-
creases the likelihood of noticing other events in the same scene. This
trend is consistent with the phenomenon of satisfaction of search”—-
people are less likely to search for additional targets once they have
found their original targetbut extends it to the previously untested
domain of inattentional blindness and the detection of unexpected ob-
jects. In summary, looking for an expected unexpected event has an
unexpected effect on the detection of other unexpected events [35].
In a very surprising re-edition of this experiment with expert ob-
servers or searchers, several radiologists were asked to look at some lung
images in search for possible pathological nodules. The average volume
of the lung nodules was 153 mm
. A gorilla image was inserted in these
lung images without telling the radiologists about it. The gorilla was
more than 48 times the size of the average nodule in the images. Less
than half of the radiologists detected the Gorilla but had a very high rate
of success detecting the pathological nodules [36]. Detection of aberrant
structures in the lung would be a standard component of the radiologists'
task, and they were not looking for gorillas.
Our experiment showed similar results but surprisingly those we ex-
pected in our original hypotheses to better perform in the task showed
instead lower success. Those more reexive and with higher CRT scores
missed the gorilla more frequently than those considered system 1 or
more impulsive/intuitive individuals. This same trend was observed with
organizational skills. Multidimensional scaled exploratory analysis also
showed interesting results grouping variables related to relevant aspects
of Space research together with religion and grouped apart from other
cognitive, quantitative or emotional variables. This may have a much
deeper meaning in our opinion. Scientic work is characterized by ana-
lytic, methodical modus operandi. However it seems that being centered
in a determined search task, e.g. searching for radio signals of extrater-
restrial origin, may blind us from other possibilities. We may even miss
the gorilla in the task. The question here is how many gorillas we may
have already missed in our search for ETI or NTI signs? The current xed
approach in the search of radio signals may have contributed to the lack
of success or to inattentional blindness (cosmic gorilla effect) on the
search for ETI or possible NTI.
New advances in physics demand new conceptualizations of what we
need to look for and open-mindedness to new possibilities in the search.
This does not exclude that other civilizations may be using radio tech-
nology and that SETI may have success. This could apply to other Type 1
civilizations based on our three types and ve dimensions classication.
However, it is more reasonable to think that advance intelligence, for
example, a Type 2 civilization would not be consequently beaming po-
tential harmful radiation to connect or contact other civilizations given
G. G. De la Torre, M.A. Garcia Acta Astronautica 146 (2018) 8391
Table 4
Pearson correlations for 15 items of PAQ-15 (n ¼137).*
at .05 level.**
at .01 level.
Religion Attention World Meta-attention forgetfulness organization skills distractibility TV Nature Empathy Maths Life in Universe UFOs Dark Matter
Attention Pearson -.043
Sig. .617
World Pearson .108 -.286**
Sig. .208 <.001
Meta-attention Pearson -.150 .311** -.190*
Sig. .080 <.001 .026
Forgetfulness Pearson -.005 -.133 .255** -.371**
Sig. .958 .122 .003 <.001
Organization Skills Pearson .110 -.064 .184* -.242** .222**
Sig. .199 .458 .031 .004 .009
Distractibility Pearson -.067 -.087 .125 -.530** .397** .343**
Sig. .438 .312 .146 <.001 <.001 <.001
TV Pearson .016 .206* -.250** .106 -.130 .011 -.098
Sig. .851 .016 .003 .219 .129 .897 .254
Nature Pearson .038 .032 .030 .003 -.116 -.155 -.019 .271**
Sig. .657 .709 .724 .976 .176 .071 .823 <.001
Empathy Pearson .078 -.006 .003 -.095 .160 -.043 .041 .177* .277**
Sig. .367 .942 .972 .272 .061 .614 .634 .038 <.001
Maths Pearson -.113 -.289** .206* -.208* .125 -.024 .130 -.118 .061 -.062
Sig. .188 <.001 .016 .015 .146 .779 .131 .168 .482 .471
Life in Universe Pearson -.072 .020 -.085 .085 .053 .072 .003 -.063 -.209* .062 -.076
Sig. .405 .819 .322 .324 .535 .401 .976 .468 .014 .474 .379
UFOs Pearson -.181* -.059 .018 -.074 .045 -.198* .056 -.066 -.108 .010 -.141 .292**
Sig. .035 .492 .832 .391 .603 .020 .518 .440 .210 .912 .100 <.001
Dark Matter Pearson -.198* -.071 .203* -.133 .201* .265** .307** -.122 -.096 .044 .132 .060 -.068
Sig. .022 .414 .019 .127 .020 .002 .001 .161 .272 .616 .131 .490 .440
Astronomy Pearson -.022 .182* -.155 .117 .093 -.162 -.057 .221* .065 .004 -.044 -.156 -.133 -.279**
Sig. .798 .036 .076 .179 .288 .062 .517 .011 .459 .960 .614 .072 .127 <.001
G. G. De la Torre, M.A. Garcia Acta Astronautica 146 (2018) 8391
the case that they wanted to establish any form of direct contact. Type 2
and 3 civilizations will use different methods to establish contact if
desired, and in these cases radio technology is not only harmful but also
meaningless. However, this situation gives rise to a new question as to
how much willingness our scientists searching for ETI or life in the uni-
verse have for other possibilities. The fact is that system 1 people
detected more frequently the gorilla and this may make us think about it.
5. Conclusions
We have seen several ETI classications in the last years. However, all
of them are based on excessive anthropomorphic considerations such as
energy consumption, visible matter, human technology or moral
behavior. We consider these classications as a short-range approach to
the problem. Most probably, advanced civilizations will dominate dark
matter and be multidimensional. Among the reasons for silence from
these civilizations nowadays, we can mention an array of factors
including 1) wrong technological approaches in our side, (2) human/
brain/consciousness factor (3) ETI or NTI nature and intentions. It could
be also possible according to our classication that not many civilizations
survive Type 1, making it more difcult to nd Type 2 and 3 civilizations.
In the search for NTI, more attention needs to be paid to observer's
variables (human factors) including information processing, physiology,
consciousness and psychology to monitor possible human errors and
biases. Fixed searching approach or too analytical human logic approach
may be wrong in the search of NTI. Scientic community in the eld
should evaluate currents methods employed in the search of ETI and
bring other possibilities/technological approaches into analysis to test its
feasibility in light of other NTI possibilities. This task depends more in
metacognitive aspects (consciousness) than pure cognitive analytical
By evaluating current methodology and how our biopsychological
nature may interfere with it, we will be doing a benecial metacognitive
analysis transcending current dominant epistemological ties.
Disclosure statement
The author received no nancial support for this study.
We want to thank Dr. Simons for kindly sharing the original Gorilla
image. We also want to thank Stewart Simonson for his insight and vision
on dark matter and new physics. He did help much on the dark matter
section of this paper.
Appendix A. Supplementary data
Supplementary data related to this article can be found at https://doi.
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No 10 82 89.1
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Conference Paper
In this article we discuss the role of new physics including dark matter in the search for life and non terrestrial intelligence (NTI) as well as the change of paradigms that this may suppose. We propose that consciousness is the key aspect in the search of NTI and we explain how this is biased by our neurobiological and sociological structure. We review results from empirical study performed with volunteers in a perception task based on cognitive profiles (intuitive vs reflexive). As an example of stimuli employed in this previous research, we present on this paper the case of an anomaly in Occator crater (Vinalia Faculae) in Ceres where we can perceive some very unusual geometrical structures and we discuss some preliminary analysis of this to try to understand if it may suppose a case of misperception or something else. We discuss how the search for techno-signatures may be influenced by our neurocognitive skills and consciousness level in an evolutionary way. The search of NTI signs by a fixed and unique strategy may prevent us to acknowledge other types of intelligence signs due to inattentional blindness phenomena as it is known in Cognitive Psychology. This article also discusses how cognitive unintentional bias may affect SETI and we propose three different factors to explain current NTI silence in this framework. Introduction. As rumors increase about the possibility of SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) getting a revamp with new funding from NASA, China built the biggest radio telescope on Earth. However, the old questions still remain, as do the old methods-and the silence. Maybe it is a mentality issue. The SETI strategy, primarily based on radio signals, has been unsuccessful for decades. Although the goal and spirit are in good shape, it is the approach which suffers from a tunnel vision syndrome, or more accurately, a cosmic gorilla effect. In the 90s, psychologists Simon and Chabris from Harvard popularized an experiment where half the observers missed a man in a gorilla costume crossing the scene because they were busy counting how many ball passes men in white t-shirts performed. This was due to what is now called the inattentional blindness effect (Simon & Chabris, 1999) What if this is happening to SETI? What if we are so focused on detecting radio signals that we miss the gorilla in the room. Our anthropomorphic view of the cosmos is due to our brain structure, senses, and mind. We can only grasp a very limited portion of physical reality. Other minds in the cosmos could be quite different from ours, and so the methods and technology they use will also differ. If we agree that science has dramatically evolved since the late 50s and 60s when the radio signal approach was conceived, now-in a digital, quantum era-maybe it is time for us to update this view with other possibilities. Quantum mechanics, dark matter, energy, and string theory may have a role in this search as well. Even our concept of an extraterrestrial could be wrong, because they could be right here and pop out of nowhere, apparently. They could leave behind signs or more advanced forms of techno-signatures other than radio signals that we might detect though. However, to a normal person, a world citizen, preconceived ideas can also occur; we conceive and model reality to our convenience, experience and concepts-extraterrestrials are not an exception here. Hollywood movies influence our lives and have also shaped our view of extraterrestrial civilizations and intelligence, from the pet-like ET to militarized Star Wars and predatory anti-Ripley aliens, all very naïve and humane in essence. Frequently, when we, including scientists, talk about extraterrestrials, we tend to see them, somehow, as either akin to us or robots using radio waves and numbers or sending blueprints as an act of good will and living around Dyson spheres (Dyson, 1960) mega-structures. The truth could be quite different. More advanced civilizations do not have to be good or bad, maybe they are simply incomprehensible to our standards. This positive/ negative binary idea is unlikely to have any grounding in reality.
This report is the product of the NASA Technosignatures Workshop held at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, in September 2018. This workshop was convened by NASA for the organization to learn more about the current field and state of the art of searches for technosignatures, and what role NASA might play in these searches in the future. The report, written by the workshop participants, summarizes the material presented at the workshop and incorporates additional inputs from the participants. Section 1 explains the scope and purpose of the document, provides general background about the search for technosignatures, and gives context for the rest of the report. Section 2 discusses which experiments have occurred, along with current limits on technosignatures. Section 3 addresses the current state of the technosignature field as well as the state-of-the-art for technosignature detection. Section 4 addresses near-term searches for technosignatures, and Section 5 discusses emerging and future opportunities in technosignature detection.
Eine andere Konsequenz aus dem bisherigen Versagen der klassischen SETI-Forschung ziehen jene Wissenschaftler, die vom reinen Horch- in einen aktiven Sendemodus zu wechseln versuchen. In diesem Kapitel stellen wir die Grundideen solcher aktiven Suchprojekte vor, die in jüngster Zeit auch öffentlich für Furore gesorgt haben. Die mediale Aufmerksamkeit resultiert dabei nicht zuletzt daraus, dass diese Experimente höchst umstritten sind und viele Experten (wie etwa der jüngst verstorbene Astrophysiker Stephen Hawking) nachdrücklich vor ihren unkalkulierbaren Folgen gewarnt haben. Aus soziologischer Warte stellen derartige Projekte politisch wie wissenschaftsethisch fragwürdige High-Risk-Forschung in einem ganz existenziellen Sinne dar.
Aufbauend auf dem im Vorkapitel vermittelten naturwissenschaftlichen Basiswissen schauen wir uns die nunmehr fast 70 jährige Geschichte der radioastronomischen Suche nach den Signalen außerirdischer Intelligenzen an. Dass diesem Vorhaben bis zum heutigen Tage kein Erfolg beschieden ist, könnte einfach nur ‚Pech‘ sein – oder aber die Folge einiger anthropozentrischer Vorannahmen, die die Suche unvorteilhaft einengen. Ein Problem ist hier sicherlich die mangelnde Bezugnahme auf kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Erkenntnisse (etwa der Fremdheitsforschung). Wir plädieren hier für eine stärkere interdisziplinäre Zusammenarbeit.
In unserem Schlusskapitel schauen wir zunächst noch einmal auf den Inhalt des Bandes zurück. Im Mittelpunkt steht dann jedoch die Frage, was mit der Exosoziologie geschieht, wenn es tatsächlich zum Erstkontakt kommt – ein Ereignis, das auch für diese neue Bindestrichsoziologie eine Zäsur darstellen würde. Von diesem Zeitpunkt an dürften auf die Exosoziologie einige neue Aufgaben zukommen, die wir prognostisch skizzieren. Das Kapitel schließt mit einigen generellen Überlegungen zur Rolle der Soziologie bei der Erforschung fremder Zivilisationen.
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