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In June, SETI and its fans in Silicon Valley organized a website for donations called SETIstars

Back in April of this year, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) was temporarily shut down due to reduced federal dollars and a state budget crisis. But after receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from fans, SETI is now back in action.

SETI, which is located in Mountain View, California, searches the skies for extraterrestrial life through the use of the Allen Telescope Array located 290 miles northeast of San Francisco. There are 42 telescopes that measure 20-feet-wide in this array, and they operate 24 hours per day. Research and development of the telescopes began in 2001 after a $11.5 million contribution from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and construction of the telescopes began in 2004 after a $13.5 million donation from Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen. The Allen Telescope Array became fully functional in 2007.

On April 22, 2011, lack of funding put the telescopes on hold. SETI CEO Tom Pierson even described staff cuts that would take place. Loss of funding from the University of California at Berkeley was the biggest financial hit, since it was SETI's partner in operating the array.

But believers of the unknown didn't take this lying down. In June, SETI and its fans in Silicon Valley organized a website for donations called SETIstars. By August 3, the site had $200,000 in donations, which is what SETI needed to continue operations. Since then, another $4,000 in contributions have rolled in.

"We're not completely out of the woods yet, but everybody's smiling here," said Pierson. "We think we're going to come out of hibernation and be solid for the next five months or so, and during those five months we're going to take care of calendar year 2013 and put that under our belt."

A few big names that contributed to SETIstars were Larry Niven, science fiction writer who created the "Ringworld" series; Bill Anders, Apollo 8 astronaut who flew around the moon in 1968; and Jodie Foster, actress who portrayed a SETI researcher in the movie "Contact."

"It is absolutely irresponsible of the human race not to be searching for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence," wrote Anders in a message with his donation.

While this $200,000+ has helped pull SETI out of hibernation, it's not the end of the financial line needed to get SETI into the clear. Pierson noted that the institute is looking to cut operating costs and the cost of science operations, which equates to about $2.5 million annually. A new operating model is needed now that UC Berkeley is out of the picture.

In the future, SETI astronomers hope to use the Allen Telescope Array to listen for signals from NASA's Kepler planet-hunting mission, which identifies planetary systems. But this project would need about $5 million in order to be pursued. Also, Pierson hopes to work with the U.S. Air Force, who could use the array to track "orbital objects" that may be a threat to satellites.

Until then, SETI researchers are just happy to have an operational telescope array once again.

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Start STI instead.
By danobrega on 8/9/2011 10:26:21 AM , Rating: 5
Start a project called "Search for Terrestrial Intelligence" instead. It should be even harder to find.

RE: Start STI instead.
By Iaiken on 8/9/2011 11:10:14 AM , Rating: 3
While I strongly believe that there almost certainly is other intelligent life out there, the possibility that we make contact with them given the distances involved is ridiculously small.

Our own almost 100 years of broadcasting has barely made it out into our own arm of the galaxy. Our own galaxy is 100,000 light years in diameter and we're about 26,000 light years from the galactic centre. That means it will take about 75,900 more years for our transmissions to make it to the furthest stars from us within our own galaxy. What's more, the further they are from us, the less likely they are to still exist by the time we hear from them.

Add in our own 6000 years of civilized existence and 100 years of real technological progress for scope and you start to realize how slim the odds are...

RE: Start STI instead.
By AnnihilatorX on 8/9/2011 11:43:01 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. It's almost certain there are other intelligient life given the number of stars in the universe exceeds a sextillion.
But to me SETI is a waste of time and resources, all signals we emit and look for obey the cosmic light speed limit. We are either looking back at far away galaxies too young to habor life, or very small number of neighbouring galaxies with negligible chance of finding life.

This is like fishing for a needle in an ocean the volume of the solar system with a rowing boat.

RE: Start STI instead.
By ClownPuncher on 8/9/2011 11:48:23 AM , Rating: 4
Since it is almost exclusively privately funded now, I don't see how it can bother anyone. At least they are attempting to do something.

RE: Start STI instead.
By bobsmith1492 on 8/9/2011 12:11:54 PM , Rating: 1
Doing something stupid is typically worse than doing nothing at all.

I could stand around all day flapping my arms trying to fly. At least I'm doing SOMETHING. If enough people did the same, eventually someone would learn to fly, right?

In reality, resources can be better spent somewhere they are likely to make a difference.

If wealthy authors and whatnot want to waste money on this project that is their prerogative, though. I would suggest investing in research into faster-than-light communication or travel or into theoretical physics if they are serious about getting out into the universe.

RE: Start STI instead.
By ClownPuncher on 8/9/2011 12:36:04 PM , Rating: 2
Are you investing in research?

RE: Start STI instead.
By MrBlastman on 8/9/2011 1:41:20 PM , Rating: 2
How can we "get out into the universe" and raise our odds for survival?

By knowing what is out there. While you make it sound simple to "get out there," once you are there, how do you keep track of where you are, figure out how to get back or... pick the right spots to go to?

SETI is privately funded. It doesn't hurt anything. Carl Sagan himself said that the odds of us finding anything out there is next to nothing using the methods that SETI employs. However, the slim chance that we do find something would have such profound implications that we are foolish to not even try.

It would change everthing. We need extraordinary evidence to get us there though. SETI is one of those such means to point us in a new direction.

RE: Start STI instead.
By TSS on 8/9/2011 4:49:26 PM , Rating: 2
Doing something stupid is typically worse than doing nothing at all.

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from Bad judgement.

Plus i consider doing nothing pretty stupid. It's better to just do the right thing first time round.

RE: Start STI instead.
By delphinus100 on 8/9/2011 7:56:57 PM , Rating: 2
If wealthy authors and whatnot want to waste money on this project that is their prerogative, though. I would suggest investing in research into faster-than-light communication or travel or into theoretical physics if they are serious about getting out into the universe.

The possibility of intelligent life elsewhere may be high or low, but it inherently violates no law of physics itself.

There are many who would say that looking for anything FTL is also 'wasting money on a project' on that basis.

(Personally, I say, do both. It's not an either/or proposition...indeed the existence of one, may tell us something about the possibility of the other.)

RE: Start STI instead.
By delphinus100 on 8/9/2011 7:47:29 PM , Rating: 2
SETI isn't looking for extra-galactic signals. Just not practical. There's plenty of territory to search, here in the Milky Way...

RE: Start STI instead.
By MozeeToby on 8/9/2011 1:56:05 PM , Rating: 2
Build a probe and send it out to the nearest star known to have some raw materials, when it gets there have it build 20 copies of itself and send them out. Rinse and repeat until you have a probe in every solar system in the galaxy. Should take less than one million years, aka a blink of an eye in cosmological time scales.

The probes can be intelligent enough to make direct contact with anyone they find. They can also run a galactic scale network keeping each other relatively up to date on what, if anything, the home civilization is up to and to relay information back.

If you really want to get crazy and assume sufficiently advanced technology, you can even have the probes contain digitized copies of the genetic diversity of the home planet and mechanically manufacture lifeforms based on the digitized designs, up to and including raising a new generation of the origin species.

RE: Start STI instead.
By MrBlastman on 8/9/2011 2:03:39 PM , Rating: 2
Neat idea but it assumes our civilization will survive a million years. With Humans programmed to kill each other (genetically speaking) I have little confidence we will make it even another few hundred years on this planet.

RE: Start STI instead.
By MozeeToby on 8/9/2011 3:05:57 PM , Rating: 3
But the point is, where are all the probes!? We know such a system is possible, and virtually impervious to any interference after a certain point (barring possibly an equally large network of probes programmed to search and destroy and even that would have a hard time doing search an destroy over interstellar distances).

We could start designing a probe like this tomorrow, and on the grand scale of things, we're probably not very advanced. So why don't we see any probes flitting around the asteroid belt or hear them beaming reports back home? It's for me the single biggest problem that SETI needs to answer, because if there are no probes, there's probably no intelligent life in the galaxy that rivals our own. And that has all kinds of implications about our future survival.

RE: Start STI instead.
By MrBlastman on 8/9/2011 4:30:37 PM , Rating: 3
Well you have to also take into account that we might think differently than other intelligent life. Just because we assume that one course of action is the most logical, other alien life might consider our logical approach illogical and instead choose a different course.

Things such as the planet they are on, their star, the climate of their world, other life on the planet or surrounding starsystems, elements, minerals, resources available and so on. All of these different factors could have a strong influence on that particular form of sentient life. Their bodies might be radically different than ours--they might not even perceive electromagnetic energy in the same spectrum that we do if at all. Perhaps they, through their own evolution have grown to such a state that they are content in their own little corner. Perhaps they have weak physical structures and the prospect of alien life being harmful to their own species overrides their desire to expand.

We don't know. We also can't simply assume that because we have found nothing that there is nothing out their either. Our sliver of time--our recorded history, it is a meer microcosm of our universe's hypothesized lifespan. Our niche in this arm of our spiral galaxy is a miniscule portion of timespace that has lightyears of distance between us and our nearest neighbor. That shouldn't stop us though.

We shouldn't also assume that because we communicate using the electromagnetic spectrum, bound by the speed of light that other sentient life does so as well. We don't even know what "nothing" is. We don't even know what our universe really is. Depending on how you look at it, it may open or close doors towards other possibilities. Perhaps other life has become so advanced that they don't even travel in our spacetime but instead transcend it in a higher dimension. It might seem fantastical but it could be entirely possible.

Thus, we have SETI. I think the probes are a neat idea. They just will take a tremendous amount of time to get anywhere. If anything, they might serve to be a marker of our legacy. For the minute amount of resources their initial introduction might utilize, they aren't a bad idea at all. I don't think though the lack of us finding any probes from other sentients need be a sign of us being the only life. Or, maybe we are--at this point in time. Maybe other sentients have killed themselves off. We won't know unless we keep looking.

RE: Start STI instead.
By delphinus100 on 8/9/2011 7:51:53 PM , Rating: 2
What's more, the further they are from us, the less likely they are to still exist by the time we hear from them.

Perhaps. But even signals from an extinct civilization will still tell us something, just as observing natural light and radio emissions from distant objects does (or as archeologists get information about extinct civilizations right here).

All it might mean is that we can't have dialog...

RE: Start STI instead.
By BugblatterIII on 8/9/2011 5:30:40 PM , Rating: 2
Ahh ok; not what I thought you were suggesting:

"And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space, 'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth!"

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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