3 Laws to Live By
By Jill Tarter
As I get older I’ve been thinking more about Arthur C. Clarke’s three laws – Wikipedia renders them this way:
- When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
- The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Sure, ACC was a science fiction writer, but he also held patents on geosynchronous satellite systems for global communication. A smart man indeed. Number 3 is important for our SETI searches, so we avoid becoming too prescriptive and miss other evidence of signals. It is also a reminder to encourage our grad students and postdocs, who are poring through vast quantities of data, to keep their eyes open for anomalies – the equivalents of Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s ‘little bits of scruff’. Number 1 weighs on me more heavily as I assume the mantle of “elderly scientist” – but then again ACC deliberately used the personal pronoun ‘he’ and I’m a she, so maybe folks will still pay attention to what I have to say; positive or negative.
Read the rest at AstronomersWithoutBorders