In the noble pursuit of contacting aliens, we humans have broadcast images, music, voices, and more into space, but have you ever stopped to think that maybe we’re sending mixed messages? Some astronomers have, and to counter that problem they’ve suggested creating standard rules for all future space-bound missives–and they want to harness the power of crowdsourcing to “edit” these messages.
In their Space Policy paper, a team of alien-hunting scientists say that standard message protocols would increase the likelihood that aliens would hear us, one goal for those involved with SETI, or the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Wired Science quotes astrobiologist Jacob Haqq-Misra:
“The paper is really a call for unity among thinking about messaging exraterrestrials,” Haqq-Misra said. “Right now it’s messy, it’s kind of all over the place. Maybe we can increase our success chances by being more unified about this.”
Citizen scientists–loosely defined as people who volunteer to aid researchers by tagging butterflies, monitoring the quality of water, sorting through galaxies, and more–by and large are committed, curious and enthusiastic about their work. But one citizen scientist has proven to be a little too enthusiastic, and it cost him his job.
Without approval, Brad Niesluchowski, a network systems administrator at Arizona’s Highley Unified School District, allegedly downloaded to every computer in the school district a program that uses Internet-connected computers to search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence in radio communications. The program, known as SETI@home, is a research project administered by the University of California-Berkeley. The free program uses idle computer time to analyze radio telescope data.
Harnessing the power of the school district’s computers, Niesluchowski has been credited with logging 575 million hours of data search in nine years, resulting in a whopping $1.2 to $1.6 million in extra energy use and related computer expenses paid for by the school district, to its surprise.
Needless to say, he was asked to resign.
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Image: flickr / soapylovedeb
The folks at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, or SETI, in Mountain View, Calif., want to make sure we earthlings are prepared for a conversation with extraterrestrials. The group, which is dedicated to searching space for signs of life, recently began searching 10 billion channels using radio telescopes to give us a chance to communicate with beings on other planets.
The next step, of course, is to figure out what to say. The institute has given the public the chance to chime in on this issue through the Earth Project, which asks space enthusiasts how we should converse with aliens.
Some of the suggestions so far:
“This is Earth speaking. We would like to know you. Please reply.”
“Down here we are all confused.”
“Don’t kidnap us and poke us. We hate that.”