Space aliens and extraterrestrials have long been popular subjects of Hollywood movies and science fiction literature. But the idea of intelligent life in outer space is no longer limited to fiction.
外星人和天外来客长期以来一直是好莱坞电影和科幻小说的题材。不过,外空存在智慧生命的想法不再局限于虚构作品当中了。

For the last 50 years, scientists and astronomers have been training their telescopes into space in the search for signs of intelligent life. Frank Drake is a trailblazer in that quest.
过去50年来,科学家和宇航员们一直在用他们的望远镜观察宇宙空间,搜索智慧生命的迹象。弗兰克.德雷克就是这样一位探索者。

Spellbound

Orson Wells' famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938 scared millions of Americans into believing earth was being invaded by Martians. But not a young Frank Drake. Rather than being fearful at the thought of aliens, he was captivated.
奥尔森.维尔1938年创作的著名广播剧星球大战吓坏了千百万美国人,他们以为地球正遭到火星人的侵犯。不过,8岁的弗兰克.德雷克想到外星人,不但不害怕,反而着迷了。

"My father told me there were other planets in space like the earth and this excited me," he says. "I was eight years old and this meant that a planet like where I lived with people like me and houses like me and eating food like I ate. The idea of there being other creatures in space is fascinating."
他说:“我父亲告诉我,在太空里有类似地球的其他星球。这让我好激动。那年我8岁,想到还有一个像我居住的那样的星球,有跟我一样的人,一样的房子,吃我吃的那些食物,想到太空里还有其他生命,太令人着迷了。”

That fascination triggered many questions.

"It's the basis of so much exciting science fiction and the most popular movies ever made. It's just a subject which excites our curiosity. What would those other creatures be like? What would their histories be? Do they have technologies we don't have which we could benefit from? All of those things were the reasons that interested me."
“这是这许多科幻小说和最受欢迎的电影的基础,是激发我们好奇心的题材。那些生命是什么样子?他们的历史是什么。他们有我们没有、而我们可以受益的技术吗?所有这些都是让我感兴趣的原因。”

Following his fascination

Drake pursued his boyhood interest and studied radio astronomy at Cornell and Harvard.
德雷克追逐着童年的兴趣,进入康奈尔大学和哈佛大学学习无线电航天学。

In 1960, he conducted the first search for extraterrestrial intelligence, a project now known as SETI. He looked for signals from these alien civilizations by setting up a 25-meter radio telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia and aiming it at two nearby stars.
1960年,他开始了对外星生命的首次探索,这个项目现在被称为SETI。他在西维吉尼亚州的格林班克安装了25米的无线电望远镜, 目标对准两个附近的星球,寻找外星文明发出的信号。

"Much like the telescope that we use to look at the sky - at the stars and the planets - except that it receives radio waves instead of light waves. And at that time, we were on earth transmitting radio signals that were sufficiently powerful that our best radio telescopes of that day could detect them, across the great distances that separated the stars," says Drake. "And so it made sense to search for radio signals. We wouldn't be speculating or assuming super-civilizations or super technologies. All they had to have was technology like our own and we could find them."
德雷克说:“这很像我们用来观看天空、星星和星球的望远镜,只不过它接收的是无线电波而不是光波。那个时候,我们在地球上传送足够强的无线电信号,我们当时最好的无线电望远镜能够穿过星球之间的遥远距离,探测到这些信号。所以,探寻无线电信号是有意义的。我们不会去揣测或者假设存在超级文明或者超级技术,他们只需要有类似我们那样的技术,我们就能找到他们。”

SETI

At that time, Drake was a junior staff member at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and kept quiet about his new project. It was so novel that he was concerned it might raise skepticism among colleagues and academics. But word of SETI got out and the public responded with support and donations.
那个时候,德雷克是国家无线电太空观测站一个低级工作人员,他对自己的新项目保持缄默。这个项目太新颖了,他担心这会在同事和学者之间引起怀疑。不过,有关SETI项目的消息还是传了出去,公众纷纷表示支持,并慷慨捐款。

Since 1960, there have been over one hundred SETI projects, with radio telescopes stationed around the world, including Puerto Rico, Argentina, Australia, South Korea and Italy. The equipment has become larger and more sophisticated over time. But so far, nothing has turned up. According to Drake, the universe is so big that it's hard to know where to look.
1960年以来,一共有100多个SETI项目,世界各地都架设了无线电望远镜,包括波多黎各、阿根廷、澳大利亚、韩国和意大利。随着时间推移,设备越来越大,越来越精密。不过,至今没有发现任何东西。德雷克解释道,宇宙太大,很难确定探寻方向。

"We now listen not to one channel as I listened to back in 1960 in the first search, but tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of channels at once," he says. "So the search for the signals is actually carried out by computers looking at the deluge of information that is coming from the radio telescopes."
他说:“我们现在不是像1960年初次探索那样只监听一个频道,而是一次监听几千万、甚至几亿个频道。侦测信号实际上由电脑执行,这些电脑检测来自无线电望远镜的大量信息。我们有许多有意思的信号,这显示,我们大概在正确轨道上,应该继续努力。”

Continuing search

Although he is now retired from full-time teaching, Drake continues to provide guidance for the next generation of astronomers at the SETI Institute. He is renowned in the astronomy community and helps with much-needed fundraising to keep the work of SETI going.

"Frank Drake is a singular person. There's no other Frank Drake," says Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. "Frank being the first has led the way. I've been in places in rural Africa where Frank Drake is still a celebrity."

Now, the non-proft SETI Institute is spearheading efforts in the United States to build and set up larger and increasingly more sophisticated radio telescopes. Its latest project with the University of California, Berkeley, is the Allen Telescope Array, involving 42 radio antennas - the most advanced structure ever built to look for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Although no signs of extraterrestrial intelligence have been detected, Drake remains optimistic.
尽管一直没有发现外星文明的迹象,但德雷克仍保持着乐观态度。

"It's only a matter of time, and the amount of time is only a matter of money. We know how to make the search, we know how much searching is required, but it's very costly. And in time, as more funds are accumulated, we will carry out the search and eventually, we will succeed."
他说:“这只是个时间问题。是个资金问题。我们知道如何去探寻,我们知道需要做多少探寻,可是这非常昂贵。等我们积累了更多资金,我们会继续探寻,我们终究会成功的。”

Does he think it will happen in his lifetime?
记者:“你认为这会在你有生之年发生吗?”

"Well, I'm 80 years old. And unfortunately, our best calculations tell us that even with our present very powerful equipment, the discovery is probably decades away. On the other hand, we could with very good luck chance upon a signal tomorrow."
德雷克:“哦(笑),我80岁了。可惜的是,我们最好的计算告诉我们,即使用功率非常大的设备,这个成果大概还要等几十年。话说回来,如果交上好运气,我们明天就可能碰到一个信号。”