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SETI - what's that all about?


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May I ask, because I am genuinely intrigued, why do so many people find the whole SETI thing interesting enough to take part in?

To my mind, if you accept that the odds are stacked against you, but you still take part because there is a chance that you'll help find a radio signal from outer space, then you should probably go out in your garden and start digging for gold. Or am I being too sceptical? Is it just a bit of fun, or are you taking part because you think it may bear fruit?

Thanks for any insight :)

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Is it just a bit of fun

I guess so ... there are a couple of issues here, firstly that it seems to make sense that you won't find if you don't look, but I reckon that if there were advanced intelligences within range they'd come to us & their arrival would be pretty obvious. Or at least signal us intelligibly. We've been shouting very loud for a good few decades now.

The other point is that, with so many computers in the world & running at only a few percent of their capability most of the time, there are a lot of processor cycles going to waste. With modern power saving the effect is less than it once was, but it's still a very significant factor ... might as well "recycle" those "waste" CPU cycles into doing something "useful".

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There's a fair difference in power usage, those "wasted" cycles are NOP instructions (No OPeration) which are designed to use little power and allow modern systems to run in a low power state, these programs run your system at full tilt consuming significantly more power than they would do.

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We had a guy from SETI give a presentation to our local astro society and although the talk was very slick and very professional, I wasn't so keen on his response to my question on precisely what the protocol would be if ever we made contact. He seemed to think that the military/government wouldn't censor the news but when I pushed him on what SETI had in place to prevent this he couldn't answer.

It's great fun for kids who would believe they are playing a part in a potentially fantastic drama, but I think the 'producers' would come in at the last minute and spoil the show to be honest.

James

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...it seems to make sense that you won't find if you don't look...

Hope you don't mind me just using that little bit of what you said, only it illustrates my point. While I can accept the logic, doesn't it also make sense for look for gold or buried treasure in your back garden? Yet I bet people who set up their computers to do SETI research haven't started digging :) So what makes you pursue this unlikely goal over any other? I probably answered my own question. Just a bit of fun?

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There's a fair difference in power usage, those "wasted" cycles are NOP instructions (No OPeration) which are designed to use little power and allow modern systems to run in a low power state

Wrong. Modern CPUs can shut down parts of the core which are not being used actively but you need to get down to standby activity level (no activity for minutes) before power consumption really falls. Stick an ammeter on the supply lead & learn the truth. Besides which, in winter, the "wasted" power is useful space heating. Edited by brianb
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doesn't it also make sense for look for gold or buried treasure in your back garden?

If that's what floats your boat .... I found a £1 coin down the back of my sofa a few days ago & was not at all disappointed by the fact that the loser of the coin was undoubtedly also me ...

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Hmmm, its a good question..

I've actually just sat here for a good 10 minutes thinking of what my argument for SETI would be and the best I can come up with is "Why the hell not?"

One side of me thinks:

"We have stood and stared up at the stars since the dawn of time.. We made endless stories up about the heavens and wondered 'Is there anything else out there?' and we have been doing this for tens of thousands of years.. so why not try to find out?"

The other side of me thinks

"If we actually received a signal from another star on the radio wavelengths that SETI searches on then we could guess that that signal had been travelling through space for up to 100,000 years (approx - 100,000 light years is the width of our own galaxy) Does this mean that the search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence is akin to digging in the garden and trying to answer the question 'Did gold used to be buried here?' "

I still want SETI to exist either way.. just in case!

Edited by Ianladd
Edit: Typos
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Ive been running the seti program for the best part of 11 years, alas nothing has been found in that time but im doing my part, theres nothing to lose but plenty to gain from a small free program that takes up next to nothing of your systems resources.

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Wrong. Modern CPUs can shut down parts of the core which are not being used actively but you need to get down to standby activity level (no activity for minutes) before power consumption really falls. Stick an ammeter on the supply lead & learn the truth. Besides which, in winter, the "wasted" power is useful space heating.

You have just confirmed I am right.

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If that's what floats your boat .... I found a £1 coin down the back of my sofa a few days ago & was not at all disappointed by the fact that the loser of the coin was undoubtedly also me ...

:):D:D:D:D

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As far as I'm aware, no form of civilisation has been discovered within 50 light years, on this basis any dialogue would be outside our current expected lifespan. No harm though if some find it interesting to try, many of the things we enjoy are difficult to justify to some others. :).

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I always liked the way that quote in the movie Contact summed it up

"I'll tell you one thing about the universe, though. The universe is a pretty big place. It's bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it's just us... seems like an awful waste of space. Right?"

Also if your walking past a pond you wont see the fish till you look into it.

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My take is why not besides my computer is doing all the work. For me dig up my bagck garden to find gold involves me doing W.O.R.K and trampling mud through the house when I have finished. Which wont win me any popularity awards at home :p.

On a slighly more serious note my comp is on and as I am Astronomically minded I decided I could help with the search. Even if they find a signal tomorrow it doesn't me we will be speaking to ET anytime soon as he/she/it would probably have died out by now but it does mean we would know we are not an anomily in our vast universe. Which to be honest is nearly mathematically improbable it would be something like 1 in a 100 trillion.

But that's just my take on it. :)

Edited by Fija
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