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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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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
quote:
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
quote:
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.)


“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls

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