SETI Shutdown | J@N | 4.26.11

SETI Shutdown | J@N | 4.26.11

Today the SETI project announced they’d be suspending the search for alien signals indefinitely today. We look at what it would take to start this project back up, and why the timing of this shutdown is so critical!

Plus we chat about what this really means for the long term life of the SETI@Home project.

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Show Notes:

Mountain View SETI announces “hibernation” of Allen Array
http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_17926565?nclick_check=1
Actual .PDF sent to investors: http://archive.seti.org/pdfs/ATA-hibernation.pdf

– Indefinite closure due to lack of funding
* If every US citizen donated 3 cents annually, they could operate indefinitely.
* Actual pricetag: only $5million, over the next two years

– Original construction privately funded primarily by Paul Allen (total of $50million donations)
* Now maintained by UC Berkeley thru donations from …
— Nat’l Science Foundation: Cut funding to 1/10th of previous year.
— State of California: Cut funding COMPLETELY

Timing could not be worse:
* Kepler telescope recently catalogued 1,235 planets potentially capable of supporting life
* SETI senior astronomer Seth Shostak compared the project’s suspension to “the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria being put into dry dock. ”

Future of SETI:

The Allen Array is not the only SETI station, but it is the only one dedicated entirely to the project. Elsewhere, teams have to borrow/rent time on arrays.

The SETI@Home project will continue: http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/
But since this is a sifting of ‘old’ data, to find things that SETI scientists may’ve missed, it may slow down? With less data coming in, will there be enough for hobbyists to sift through?

setiQuest.org: http://setiquest.org/
Similar to SETI@home, except that it uses HUMANS instead of “at rest” CPU cycles to track patterns of potential signals. Thanks to partnership with GalaxyZoo project, significant findings can be followed up on almost immediately.
Also includes (or will include) an open-source initiative for code and algorithm development, to further increase the efficiency of SETI.

Our thoughts on SETI:

-A gov’t sponsored answering machine? At least then, they won’t get a busy signal when dialing in. That’d be embarrassing.
-Arczer believes that SETI is the only thing keeping the invasion at bay. Now they can take us by surprise!

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