SETI Receives Over $200,000 in Donations; Allen Telescope Array Back in Action
August 9, 2011 10:01 AM
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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
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
. 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.
8/9/2011 2:03:39 PM
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.
8/9/2011 3:05:57 PM
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.
8/9/2011 4:30:37 PM
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.
"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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