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The Internet Space Science

Seti Live Website To Crowdsource the Search For Alien Life 90

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-want-to-believe dept.
bs0d3 writes "Scientists need your help in the search for life beyond Earth. The SETI Institute is asking the public to join in its hunt for signals from intelligent civilizations out there in the universe. Anyone can register on the new website, SETI Live, to help analyze data from SETI's radio telescope devoted to scanning the heavens for signals from E.T.."
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Seti Live Website To Crowdsource the Search For Alien Life

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    >> intelligent civilizations out there in the universe

    Why not start the search a little closer to home?

  • Better idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by devleopard (317515) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @06:51PM (#39203733) Homepage

    Hey, they could build an app that people could install on their computer or something! I think if they do that, they could give it a name like "distributed computing" or the like. Or even better, since most people use their computers at home, they could throw that in the name as well.

    • Re:Better idea (Score:4, Interesting)

      by LivinFree (468341) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @06:59PM (#39203795) Homepage

      I thought the same thing. Although, from the site:
      > One of the hardest parts of hunting for signals
      > from space is separating what might be an ET
      > signal from the earth-based RFI sources. We
      > think that human eyes, and our amazing brains,
      > should be better than a computer at finding
      > interesting signals in the noise.

      So it's an attempt to use the brain to manually pick out patterns? (I can't tell yet because the site may be overloaded - I get a "Loading..." screen but no updates.

      I'm not sure that's a great idea, since the brain tends to make associations even if none truly exist.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        haha, I read that in Seth's voice. Maybe I listen to too much 'big picture science.'

      • the brain tends to make associations even if none truly exist.

        Bingo.

        I see one of two possible scenarios:

        1. A person is concentrating so hard on ignoring earth-based signals that they mistake anything that could possibly be there as one and any potential discovery is missed.

        2 (far more likely). SETI suddenly gets reports of eight million new signals because as you say, we're far too good at seeing patterns in noise.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        > One of the hardest parts of hunting for signals from space is separating what might be an ET signal from the earth-based RFI sources

        I saw something on TV a while back called, "Superjail" that might very well have been an alien transmission.

        It was really really good, so if it was made by aliens, I really hope they come back soon.

      • by sg_oneill (159032)

        Your missing a key point though. Human brains make associations where none exist precisely for the same reason they are good at what computers are not.

        Human brains are amazingly powerful pattern recognizers. We pick up almost any pattern that exists. Sometimes however those patterns are not significant and we get confused by it, but in this case, SETI just wants *any* pattern to be picked up. The RFI junk can be filtered out easily enough, but its finding the patterns thats hard. Its better to find all the

      • Whether or not there's intelligent life out there, I seriously doubt that we would recognise any alien signals as communication.

        Some SF on this subject:
        A strange discovery [slashdot.org]
        We still haven't found extraforgostnic life [slashdot.org]
        Both look at it from the perspective of aliens looking for us.

    • by pezpunk (205653)

      haha yeah i had seti@home installed on so many computers .. surprised that pretty visualization didn't get burned in to the monitors.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I knew a few people that worked at AOL in it's heyday. At one point AOL was one of the biggest contributors (cpu cycle wise) to SETI@home. I don't think it was a corporate idea. I believe that someone started installing it for their own personal reason and a sizable part of the company seemed to think it was a good idea.
        • A friend of mine used to install Seti@home as a service on all of his corporate desktops. The whole company was running Seti@home and didn't know it!
  • by VinylRecords (1292374) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @06:52PM (#39203741)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7YK2uKxil8 [youtube.com]

    After Peter Weyland's brilliant TED speech I donated my money and spare computing power to the Weyland Corporation.

  • SETI To Release Data To the Public [slashdot.org]

    "SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is releasing its collected data to the public. Jill Tarter, director of SETI, says, 'We hope that a global army of open source code developers, students, and other experts in digital signal processing, as well as citizen scientists willing to lend their intelligence to our exploration, will have access to the same technology and join our quest.'"

  • Brilliant idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @06:54PM (#39203753) Homepage

    It's not as if the humans most likely to spend time looking for ETI signals are also the most likely to be affected by optimism and confirmation bias. I'm sure we'll see many more signals than when boring computers did it.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      What they are lookimg for doesn't work well on computers... certainly not as well as humans. While confirmation bias will be an issue, its not like they aren 't double checking.

    • Re:Brilliant idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @08:13PM (#39204317)

      Confirmation bias isn't an issue. Citizen Science works by people characterising various signals - such as categorising galaxies or pointing out transits in light curves. When someone flags up a potential find, the software then farms it out to multiple people. The current target for Galaxy Zoo is 30, which they deem enough for the moment. In addition the software does sneaky things like inverting images because apparently orientation is a big factor in whether you percieve a galaxy to be rotating clock or anti-clockwise.

      Similar approaches apply to the Planet Hunters site:

      We will always identify the simulated transit points in red after you’ve classified the star and list the radii and period of the simulated planet we injected into the light curve. The reason we don’t identify the simulated data first, is that if you knew the lightcurve had simulated events you might look at it differently. To be able to use the data from the simulated transits accurately, we need them to be examined in exactly the same conditions as the real lightcurves.

      The people organising these sites know very well what humans are capable of misconstruing.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What's the point? We already know the Turians will find us, and we'll know in 2 weeks the feud with the Reapers.

  • by Froggels (1724218) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @07:24PM (#39203969)
    Is SETI wasting its time listening for radio signals? Just how powerful would a stable radio signal (such as a television type of transmitter)have to be at the source from a "nearby" star-system (say 20 light years) in order to be detected here on Earth, and as a corollary to that question, how powerful would an inadvertent stable signal on Earth have to be in order to be be detected at the same distance using similar equipment as that used by the SETI program? Do we even transmit anything strong and long enough that it could be detected at such a distance? I would imagine that the signal-strength would drop off too quickly to be detectable.
    • by fyngyrz (762201) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @07:43PM (#39204131) Homepage Journal

      They are wasting their time if the (presumed) radio signals signals are like ours -- planet bound and not intended for other ears. If, however, someone is sending something this way intentionally, then it's well within the bounds of reason that we could hear it. With the relatively simple creation of an antenna and transmitter system in space, there's no reason a signal we could hear couldn't be produced. In fact, this is likely the only way, because the portion of the spectrum SETI is listening in isn't likely to be used for communications on a planetary surface, or if so, certainly not at the radiated power levels and steady aim required to light up any sort of detection at this end.

      However, I would ask, why not light? You have a handy sun nearby, radiating all manner of otherwise unused visible energy... all you need to aim, focus and modulate that -- are mirrors. Seems like an altogether easier project, and certainly less expensive, plus less likely to have technical problems.

      • by nomel (244635)

        Beings that we're just now able to see *entire planets* orbiting distance suns, I doubt a relatively small array of mirrors, encircling a sun (you would want omnidirectional) would be even close to visible. If they were intentionally going for ease and being highly omnidirectional, I think RF would be the way to go.

        • by fyngyrz (762201)

          I doubt a relatively small array of mirrors, encircling a sun (you would want omnidirectional) would be even close to visible

          Planets are very poor reflectors. Not comparable. You've not got your head wrapped around the thing. RF isn't that different from light in terms of visibility, focus, etc... except you have to *make* it, therefore need a power plant, etc. whereas the light has already been made for you, for free, quite reliably, and at quite significant energies. Light also concentrates wonderfully,

          • by nomel (244635)

            >Planets are very poor reflectors. Not comparable.

            Not comparable!??? From wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:
            "The average overall albedo of Earth, its planetary albedo, is 30 to 35%, because of the covering by clouds, but varies widely locally across the surface, depending on the geological and environmental features."

            Just because one square inch of mirror reflects better than one square inch of planet surface does not mean the mirror will be more visible. Your positionable mirrors will still need to cover a surface area that's

            • by nomel (244635)

              And yes, I realize 1500 planets a second is a stupid low number considering a realistic beam width. Point is, anything you do will have to be over days aimed at a single planet...assuming you're trying to talk to us right now.

      • by jamstar7 (694492)
        I can so see an alien Stephen Hawking come up with the brilliant idea of beaming radio pulses at this nearby G-type star (us), and getting funding for a couple years.

        And then I can totally see the local legislature pulling the funding for all that 'Buck Rogers stuff that nobody will get any use out of' in favor of buying itself some more votes and/or shutting the local neocon-alikes up before they march on the government with pitchforks and torches to kill them because the thought of intelligent life other
        • by fyngyrz (762201)

          In our case, funding for this kind of thing, however clumsy, has been unavailable basically due to fear. Congress has looked at funding several proposals over the years and has come down pretty solidly on the side of "seems like a risky idea. If it doesn't work, it's a waste, and if it DOES work, we could be in huge trouble." Listening for aliens is one thing... yelling "here we are!" is quite another.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      We do in fact transmit signal powerful enough to be seen by distant stars. For example when doing adaptive optics imaging we shine a laser into the sky which outshines the sun at a very specific wavelength.

    • by sithlord2 (261932)
      Good point. And if the aliens use digital communication (maybe with a bit of encryption and DRM on top of it :p), it will only show up as noise after analog conversion.
      • by schiefaw (552727)

        Good point. And if the aliens use digital communication (maybe with a bit of encryption and DRM on top of it :p), it will only show up as noise after analog conversion.

        Even digital data uses a carrier wave.

        The problem with this idea is that the human brain does not react well to large amounts of negative data. Eventually, the mental "squelch" of the viewer will drop to the point where they will see a pattern whether one exists or not.

        I could see sending flagged data to humans, but this project is in "real-time". I think this is just a publicity gimmick.

    • by khakipuce (625944)

      Probably because of timing. We just assume that our civilisation will go on for ever, but our own history shows that all civilisations die out in only a few thousand years. Given that if an asteroid hadn't randomly hit earth 65 million years ago a species that developed radio could have evolved any time between 65 million year ago and anytime in the future. There is no reason to suppose that there is any species in the galaxy whose evolution and scientific development is coincident with ours.

  • I seem to remember an application like this back in '96/'97 timeframe that did the same thing with the fledgling WWW, around the same time as the Mersienne prime # search app. Did that happen?

  • ... that an automated search WOULDN'T find but that a sentient being would recognize? Perhaps by being able to pick up some sort of quantum phenomenon that wouldn't register with deterministic sensors? (I read that there the was a proposed experiment to see if the human eye could perceive quantum entangled images; if they could, the subject would see some sort of pattern, if not just random "static").

    Perhaps if the galaxy was full of self-replicating machines bent on the destruction of organic life, this

  • Look for the aliens here already. I find them in nearly every crowd and flash mob I have been in. Oh, thats not what was meant by crowdsourced?
  • by Reeses (5069)

    I'm pretty sure this is a dupe.

    http://news.slashdot.org/story/98/04/17/91338/seti-at-home [slashdot.org]

    Don't the editors double check for anything around here?

  • So, ... (Score:4, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @10:45PM (#39205129)

    ... it has come to this.

  • Nothing is unique compared to its '90s counterpart except the name...
  • I sincerly hope that if there are aliens out there, we'll never find them, or rather, they never find us. As life on Earth is 3 billion years old, and the aliens can't be less developed than we are, give or take a few centuries, or they wouldn't transmit signals we can detect, there's a 99.9% chance that they are more developed than we are. Not by a decade, but probably by a few million years. A few million years ago, the most intelligent life on earth was as smart as cows. So, if aliens find us, they won't

    • Wow! That's the same perspective I have on the subject!
    • by Jeng (926980)

      I believe it would be impractical for a space fairing race to be reliant on meat for food, or at least meat grown naturally rather than lab grown.

      Any resource the Earth has, other uninhabited planets have more.

      We would make horrible slaves since we would just barely be able to grasp their technology, we might make decent soldiers, but we would make great pets.

  • First, to share the link that was going around on google+. Here is a shot of a galaxy similar to our own with a yellow dot to show how far radio waves would travel out from the center of the yellow dot in 200 light years.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2107061/Earth-calling-Tiny-yellow-dot-shows-distance-radio-broadcasts-aliens-travelled.html [dailymail.co.uk]

    From this you can see our efforts are puny.

    The Arecibo message is now revealed to be a complete joke. It was aimed at a cluster 25,000 ly away wh

  • Hmm... Why do we assume aliens are friendly ? What if they exhausted their natural resources ? What if they are looking for a source of food and we look like cows to them ? I don't think it's a good idea to assume E.T. is friendly. I don't think I watched way too much sci fi in my lifetime. I just think we really need to be careful.
    • by cpghost (719344)
      Actually, it tells a lot about one's way of thinking whether he/she considers aliens as potential friends or as potential enemies. Prior sci-fi used to be mostly of the former optimistic kind (think Star Trek e.g.) with the hostile alien being the exception, or at least the minority. Newer sci-fi belongs to the latter pessimistic kind and is a lot darker and quite depressing. What turned a formerly mostly utopian-minded readership into a mostly dystopian-minded one tells a lot about the state of the country
      • Yeah but assuming that an alien life form could be helpful and friendly is foolish. You don't know one way or the other.
  • by samsonov (581161)
    Time to unearth my speak and spell.

"Pascal is Pascal is Pascal is dog meat." -- M. Devine and P. Larson, Computer Science 340

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