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Subject:  Re: SETI FAQ-OT Date:  12/8/1999  12:57 AM
Author:  amharmony Number:  791 of 4785

SETI FAQ-OT (On Topic Posts) (Off Topic Posts) - you decide.

Letting you know up front what is required to recognize an intelligent signal... since 1902.

(Dec 99 Sci Am- extended article)

A. Contrary to public perception we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to looking for life elsewhere in the universe. Limited searches for optical pulses have just begun and our own much beloved SETI@home covers only a narrow stripe across the sky because of Arecibo's limited ability to steer.

Q.Who is Arecibo to SETI, or SETI to Arecibo- and what has this got to do with drinking beer?

A. SETI is a science project that "listens" to radio signals from deep space to try and pick up patterns that might indicate alien intelligence. The radio signals are gathered by the Arecibo Telescope. There is so much data being accumulated and not enough computers to process it, so someone at SETI came up with the brilliant idea of developing a program that runs on personal computers like a screen saver which is actually busy processing chunks of data.

Q. You actually get to do something tangible here?

A.If you have a computer and an internet connection you can help out science by going to:
and download the screensaver.

Q. What risks are associated with increased intimacy by using SETI@home?

I am running SETI@home because I believe it is a valid scientific enquiry. I do not hold out much hope that SETI@home will be successful given the limitations of our present technology and scope of current search. But you have to start somewhere. I would however be wildly delirious with joy to see mere evidence of the existence of alien technology. To actually hope that alien life forms might show up on my doorstep would fulfill a life long fantasy (well maybe not lifelong - say since I was about 4 years old). To sum up if I haven't been sufficiently clear: I would be in overjoyed to confront the ramifications of intimacy with alien intelligence.

Q. How can I tell if I'm doing it right? I've been doing this for about half an hour. I see these funny little images on my screen that look like red, purple and blue folders. Now what?

A. Now, nothing. Ignore it. Drink a beer. The computer does all the work. And depending on how fast your computer works it will take anywhere from 12 hours to a couple of days to do a work unit. You should now have a little green icon on your task bar and when the computer finishes with a work unit it will flash red and green to catch your attention. When you see that just double click on it and you can connect to send your finished work unit back to SETI and get a new one to process. Also if you want to speed up the time it takes your computer to do a work unit set your screen saver to go to a blank screen after one minute.

Q. How do you "register" with any group or the other? I just got started out, and wouldn't mind my work-units going towards anybody's "grand total"...

A. Go to either of these links:

and click on join group.

One will give you the US seti searchers; the other will give you the UK seti searchers. Note - you do not have to be a Brit to join the UK seti searchers - just
a love of crumpets and tea etc.

Q. What is the Drake Equation?

A. The Drake Equation is an equation used to estimate the number of communicating civilizations in the galaxy. The formula is:
N=R*fp*ne*fl*fi*fc*L where N is the number of communicating civilizations, R is the number of sun-like stars formed per year, fp is the fraction of these stars with planets, ne is the average number of habitable planets in each of these solar systems, fl is the probability that life will develop on a habitable planet, fi is the probability that life will evolve into at least one intelligent species, fc is the probability that the intelligent species will communicate across the heavens, and L is the average age of these civilizations.

Q. If there are so many other civilizations out there, then why aren't they here?

A. This question is the Fermi Paradox. Explanations include everything from "they don't exist" to "we're in a galactic wildlife refuge".

Q. Have we thought about sending signals?

A. We were not looking in the late 19th century when radio was discovered, but we have been transmitting since that time. "They" could be listening for that kind of stuff and find us if they cared to.

Their window of transmission using methods we are looking for must overlap our window of looking for them.

Q. Are other kinds of mathematical artifacts, like ___ ever entered into your consideration?

A. No.

Q. What about the human factors of signal sending?

A. We can safely say that there are at least two basic categories of humans: 1) Those that prefer cosy-ing up to a warm and fuzzy pile of feces (singing optional) and 2) those who prefer to stand on the mountaintop during the darkest part of the night, staring up at stars, calling out "Here I'm over here" (waving optional)

Or, you could say that there's three types of people in the world -- those who can count and those who can't.

Q.What are the alien factors?

A. LGM- Little Green Men and SMW- Sexy Magenta Women (GRW- Great Rosey Women are a derivative of the latter- recently uncovered due to unobserved LGM peturbations.)

Q. How many of you are actually running multiple machines?

A. Classified. It changes all the time. I don't know. Besides, some of us can't count. (Others can't spell- fortunately our ASCII is universal)

OTOH, FajitaPete runs a sweatshop in which numerous computers, many of them minors, are chained to the lab tables and forced to perform fast fourier transforms for below minimum wage.

Did you want binaries with your order?

Q. I'm humourously challenged- where can I get a clue?


P.S.: Whenever the word Zargon appears in a post it is almost always a joke.

Q. What if humor-challenged Zargonians do show up?

A. Call me Cleopatra, Queen of DeNial- I can elect to ignore them and thus, at least for me, they won't exist..

Q. And what of the penguins?...............

Q: I see.... OK - one last question.
Is this one of those boards where we can be daring in our use of junior high school humor, albeit, aided by the use of asterisks in four letter words?

A: Absolutely not. This board is frequented by several small children whose parents will not only fool alert you, but, should you be so rash as to actually be
nasty enough to hurt said child(ren)'s feelings, will be waiting for you after work with a baseball bat.
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