NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2010
ET phone home!
By Berry F. Phillips, a Member of the Computer Club of Oklahoma City
May 2010 Issue of The Monitor

Ron Hirsch Articles tab or
bfpdata(at)1access.net (click to email author)

SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is an exploratory science that searches for evidence of life in the universe. The current understanding of life's origin on Earth suggests that given a suitable environment and sufficient time, life will develop on other planets. Of course, whether evolution will give rise to intelligent, technological civilizations is open to speculation. SETI has developed signal-processing technology to detect alien civilizations which may offer our best opportunity for discovering extraterrestrial life in the near future.

From 1994 - 2004, SETI was funded entirely from individuals and grants from private foundations. In 2005, a NASA grant was awarded for work on signal detection for the Allen Telescope Array. Donations and non-governmental grants still comprise the vast majority of funding.

The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) is a "Large Number of Small Dishes" (LNSD) array now operational and was designed to be highly effective for simultaneous surveys of conventional radio astronomy projects and search for extraterrestrial intelligence observations. The first phase of the ATA now operational was funded by Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, which has 42 antennas approximately twenty foot in diameter. The Allen Array is located at Hatfield Creek Observatory and is a joint project of the SETI Institute and the Radio Astronomy Lab of the University of California Berkeley. Additional phases projected, depending on funding, will eventually be developed to 350 dishes greatly expanding research capabilities. The ATA will then be able to monitor a very wide range of radio frequencies larger than any other single radio telescope or radio telescope array.

SETI@home was launched in May 1999 to analyze radio telescope signals. A giant virtual super computer composed of hundreds of thousands of Internet-connected computers harnessing their spare power, via a screensaver, was created in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. You can use your computer in this exciting research and join some 5.2 million users worldwide by downloading http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/

In 1977, Contact (a motion picture), starring Jodie Foster, was based on a book by Carl Sagan that his wife finished after his death. Contact was based on SETI research. SETI Institute supports the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe. The center directed, by Dr. Frank Drake, brings together leading researchers in a field often called "astrobiology," the study of life in the universe. "Our team focuses on a wide set of disciplines ranging from observing and modeling the precursors of life in the depths of outer space to studies of Earth, where we are attempting to learn more about how life began and how it may diverse forms have survived and evolved." How did life begin on Earth? How many stars have planets and how many of these planets might support life? Scientists in the SETI Institute's Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe explores these and other fundamental questions through various projects and research into a field often known as astrobiology.

While no evidence to date has been received of an advanced civilization, research at SETI is intensifying due to continued technological developments. In 1982, in the motion picture ET, The Extra-Terrestrial, directed by Steven Spielberg, we learned that ET phones home. When ET phones, SETI will be listening!

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