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SETI To Release Data To the Public 150

Posted by timothy
from the find-the-hidden-aliens dept.
log1385 writes "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.'"
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SETI To Release Data To the Public

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  • Why NOW? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PatPending (953482)
    Why NOW? They should have done this from the beginning!
    • Re:Why NOW? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @04:56PM (#31931094)
      Why now? Because now they found the alien mind control signal they have been looking for, the pink laser shining from the stars into the black iron prison. And now, now they unleash it onto the public. The plot thickens...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I guess they had their hopes up really high and didn't want the public to know if ET was out there before the government had time to prepare some form of press conference.

      But honestly, I think its all a clever ruse. We'll get some bogus data on some random #'ed star, and the open source signal analyzers will derive that there is something there. After an intense round of "Whats going on?" and people wasting their lives away to decode the message, we'll learn that it was all a viral marketting campaign for a

      • Don't be stupid! The first we'd here about it would be when we learn of a sound file hacking the government firewalls with a 2000 bit encryption on all IPs in 20 seconds.

        Expect your lookups to be backdoored!
    • Because they've already built the Carl Sagon transporter, so they don't have to worry about it triggering again.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      I would guess no real means to use that data (heck, even no realistic way of transmitting and storing those amounts) were available to "amators" for most of SETI existence...only lately have bandwiths, storaga and processing capacities of small teams or individuals become meaningful (that said, they waited few years too long)

      For a long time you would just get noise from quacks and conspiracy theorists.

      • True; still they could have "opened" the algorithms for comments, etc.
        • by sznupi (719324)

          Are you sure they didn't? I would expect there to be quite a lot of papers from them, being part of the general research categories of signal processing, pattern recognition, etc.

    • Re:Why NOW? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by natehoy (1608657) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @05:12PM (#31931418) Journal

      I think their original hope was that those most interested in the SETI project would contribute their knowledge and expertise to a single project.

      SETI@HOME proved that leveraging tons of processors to crunch algorithms developed by a relatively small number of good brains allowed them to expand their science. They've analyzed the everlovin' crap out of that signal for about 50 years now (or millions of years if you count SETI@HOME computer time) and nothing has surfaced yet, so maybe it's time to let others have a crack at it.

      But there's good reason not to do that too soon.

      The problem is that expanding the number of brains can be a good thing and a bad thing. Good in that more people will take novel approaches to analyzing the data, bad because there's going to be a lot of duplication, a lot of working at cross-purposes, and a lot of people so desperately wanting to be the one to discover the Greys that SETI will have to work up some method of validating claims.

      And, of course, just debunking false claims from every 9-year-old who forgot to set the right floating point settings on his compiler and ended up with a filtration pattern, every nutjob who thinks that a pattern match of 2 bits against the latest copy of the "Music of the Spheres" constitutes a valid find, and every attention-seeker who just makes shit up in the hopes of getting their name in lights for a few seconds will now be a full-time job for a population of scientists much larger than the current SETI project supports today.

      Right now, there are fewer brains working on the project, but they seem to have really good integrity. In radio terminology, there isn't much signal but the signal-to-noise ratio is quite good.

      Make the data public, and you'll have a lot more theories on how to find a match, and some of them will even be good. A few will almost certainly be better than the original scientists had going on to start with. But the signal-to-noise ratio is going to be awful.

      SETI already has credibility problems from those who do not believe that life could exist anywhere but God's Chosen Sphere, and those who believe that if life existed it would be a colossal coincidence indeed if it could emit patterns we'd recognize, and those who believe that such signals would never have had time to reach us yet. Add in a months' worth of multiple daily stories about some lunatic claiming to have found aliens based on pattern matching the raw SETI data against the screech marks on his underwear from the same day the data was collected, and they'll find it even harder to get funding.

      But I suspect the SETI project, as it stands, is probably going to wither away at some point anyway. So releasing the data is a good way of making sure someone, somewhere, will preserve it in addition to expanding the uses of it.

      • bad because there's going to be a lot of duplication, a lot of working at cross-purposes

        I don't see duplication as a negative. Duplication validates that the implementation is correct.

      • Re:Why NOW? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by shadowbearer (554144) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:25PM (#31933956) Homepage Journal

          In answer to the bad or intentionally fraudulent processing problem, they could validate any spurious signal quite easily - by putting it in to their own software and seeing if there's anything there.

          If they find nothing there, but contact the person analyzing the data and determine that said person probably has the smarts and honesty to have found something legit, then they can work with that person, request a copy of their code, etc.

          I don't think that mistakes or fraudulent results are going to be quite the problem you think they are - and I'm sure that the scientists who do the SETI programming/analysis have likely already thought this through. If I can think of a few ways to do validation of outside results in a couple minutes they have likely thought of many more ways.

        SB

    • by ascari (1400977)

      Because if they had found something they would have been heroes. Turns out they foudn diddly squat, so now they want your help to avoid looking like tards.

      Redundant answer? Hell yeah. After all the reason for their behavior is so fundamentally human that the very fact you're asking makes me wonder whether YOU are... So let's hear it: Which galaxy are you really from, Pat?

    • Of course, I didn't read the article:), but several pop-sci books on AI/ET that I've read lately have quoted scientists who are beginning to speculate that perhaps we've already picked up alien signals. However, the pattern may be so complex (so alien!), that seti missed it.

      So one guess is that seti wants imagination and innovation that comes from crowd sourcing to help analyze the data for patterns that the 'old schoolers' (long time seti researchers) have missed.

      A more pessimistic guess would be that set

    • It took them that long to edit out the real data!

  • signal (Score:3, Funny)

    by Jodka (520060) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @04:53PM (#31931032)

    Wow!

  • by Wyatt Earp (1029)

    This is like the young earth creationists releasing their data to the public.

    They found nothing in what...50 years? And 11 years of SETI@Home crunching data. I mean, its a cool screen saver though.

    • They found nothing in what...50 years?

      According to TFA it's been 25 years: Throughout the institute's 25-year history (we are a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to scientific research, education and public outreach), we have analyzed these raw data with custom algorithms operating on semi-custom hardware. Now we are transitioning to readily available hardware and servers because technology has caught up to us -- hooray!

    • Re:Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @05:00PM (#31931182)
      Because YEC drivel is in any way equivalent to scientifically measured radio telescope data. Yep, right, sure. Hey, we haven't found working fusion, gravity waves, proton decay, a cure for cancer, a cure for AIDS, and lots, lots and more lots of stuff. So, obviously all of this is bunk, yes? Hell, why don't we just stop doing science at all, it won't be complete ever, so it is a waste of time, correct? This used to be a site for nerds...
      • by Threni (635302)

        Analyzing noise looking for messages from Aliens so we can say...yes, out there there are some aliens...out there in the billions and billions of stars there are other species. What a surprise. It's so obvious that we're not the only populated planet it's just numbing that anyone would seriously believe otherwise. But...we find a message and....what? What do we do then? Compare that with some of the other things you just put; things which have a tangible payoff, perhaps in our lifetimes.

        • Like all these other question of rather fundamental nature that we pursue in science, which have no immediately visible tangible payoff? Should we stop them too? Who let the economist take over science? Who decided science should be about payoff, not about finding out things about the universe just because it is there? Who knows what the payoff might be?
        • Re:Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by natehoy (1608657) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @05:21PM (#31931550) Journal

          Having proof positive that aliens exist would not have a profound impact on our daily lives, true, but it would have a deeply profound impact on our outlook and perception of the universe around us. And, of course, who knows what information they may be broadcasting, if they do exist and we eventually find a signal?

          Having said that, SETI has never been a very expensive project, so it's not like we're spending big money on SETI. Back when NASA funded SETI, it was less than one tenth of one percent of NASA's budget. Now that it's privately funded, it isn't really cutting too deeply into any other projects. Maybe you have a handful of scientists working on SETI instead of one of the other projects you mentioned, but then again most of our efforts in the world are wasted on things that are not only not in our best interests, but could arguably said to be acting against our best interests. SETI may not be optimal, but it's very small in the big picture and certainly doesn't appear detrimental.

        • by pezpunk (205653)

          your lack of curiosity baffles me.

        • by Stook (1270928)

          But...we find a message and....what? What do we do then? Compare that with some of the other things you just put; things which have a tangible payoff, perhaps in our lifetimes.

          Don't just think about monetary or tangible payoffs. Think about the effect that confirmation of ET life would have on world culture. Think about the effect it would have on religion. If "man" was created in "God's" image, what where they created in? How long have they been around? More than 6,000 years? This could cause some serious issues for a lot of people out there.

          That aside, maybe this could be the impetus for us to stop looking at things from a country to country perspective and actually cooper

          • by tompaulco (629533)
            The existence of Extra Terrestrial life would not invalidate my belief, which happens to be Christianity. The fact that man was made in God's image is not a reference to our physical appearance, as we obviously all look different, and until Jesus came, there was no physical incarnation of God. Jesus also spoke of having sheep in other pastures. Aliens? Maybe. Or perhaps he was speaking of the many other countries on Earth.
            C.S. Lewis, a Christian author, had a whole series where there was intelligent life o
        • It is my opinion that the proof of existance of other sentient communications would be profound, akin to proof of religious dieties existances.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Bragador (1036480)

          I disagree. The universe is a very harsh and unwelcoming place for life. Life, intelligent and complex life, might almost be impossible to create. We might be that 1 in a very large number statistical exception.

          Saying it's obvious aliens exist is a very dangerous thing since we have no proof of them. Might as well replace that word with angels, gods, etc.

          Believing and knowing are two very different things.

          • There is life out there.

            Remember that the most distant object we can see (GRB 090423 [newscientist.com]) is 13.1 *billion* years old. So 13.1 billion years of stuff has happened before we even noticed it existed, and it'll be another 13.1 billion years before we know if that event spawned anything resembling life by today's date.

            I have no doubt that there is life in space. We will just never, ever know of it until those who would find it relevant are long dead.
      • by Wyatt Earp (1029)

        I've been cured of cancer twice.

        And you are right, why waste the manpower and computing power on this?

    • They found nothing in what...50 years?

      Maybe them smarty-pants extraterrestrials don't want to be found?

      Well, at least by us anyway.

      They've probably been watching our TV shows, and have decided that "Gilligan's Island" and "Oprah Winfrey" aren't worth the trip here.

      And they are intentionally keeping quiet, because they don't want us coming looking for them.

      • Are you dissing Gilligan?
      • by tompaulco (629533)
        And they are intentionally keeping quiet, because they don't want us coming looking for them.
        Nah, it's probably just because radio waves are diluted and scattered in a miniscule distance as far as astronomical distances are concerned.
    • Re:Meh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @05:06PM (#31931282)

      Yes, because on cosmic scales, 50 years is an eternity! I know if I were a highly advanced alien species, I'd spend all my time pointing transmitters at random planets in the night sky, especially ones which I haven't seen any activity from and which failed to respond to my last transmissions a mere 200 years ago.

      You've got to realize that SETI depends on aliens actively trying to make contact. Even a highly advanced civilization would be unlikely to devote the resources necessary to flood the cosmos with signals that are detectable all the time and everywhere. It's more likely that they A) send signals in bursts, in which case 50 years really isn't that long to be searching or B) wait till they detect signals coming in (which would presumably be easier for them than it is for us), which means that the only civilizations we're likely to contact at this point are ones with 30 light years.

      SETI should be, in my opinion, more interested in searching the asteroid belts for Von Neumann probes than listening for radio signals. Besides being more likely (again, just in my opinion) it would have the added benefit of providing actual communication with an alien intelligence (assuming a strong AI powered probe) verses shouting at each other and waiting 50 or more years for a response.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        I suspect that if the goals of any hypothetical Von Neumann probes wouldn't include avoidance of detection (in which case they would be likely Berserks...), we would have noticed by now.

      • by formfeed (703859)

        You've got to realize that SETI depends on aliens actively trying to make contact

        Nope, they don't.

        A lot of civilized activities make non-random electro-magnetic noise:

        • radar
        • uplink stations for interplanetary communications
        • energy beams for space stations, space elevators, or remotely powered probes.
        • the beams used in asteroid mining activities and meteorite protection

        You're right however, that any civilization that can be discovered has to be further advanced than we are.

        • Well, it is a question of signal intensity. The non-random noise emitted by a technical civilization will be mostly undirected and relatively low-power, so the detection range will only be a couple, maybe tens of lightyears. Aliens actively trying to make contact would in all likelihood use frequency ranges that are relatively low-noise and would utilize directed transmissions, so in that case the detection range is much higher. So, the general expectation is to find someone actively transmitting, if we fin
      • Re:Meh (Score:4, Interesting)

        by thesandtiger (819476) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:24PM (#31933256)

        Personally, I think SETI should be looking for patterns in everything that's out there - patterns that might indicate intelligent life - and I don't just mean via radio/light/whatever transmissions.

        It is not unreasonable to think that in 1000 years humanity would be capable - assuming we survive and continue to advance at even a fraction of the speed we are advancing today - of projects that would essentially engineer our solar system to make it over into a place that is more conducive and efficient for human (or trans-human, if you go that way) life. Certainly in 10,000 years it isn't unreasonable to think - again assuming survival and any kind of advancement - that we wouldn't be capable of essentially gardening our sun to make it much, much more stable than it already is, extend the lifecycle of it, etc.

        Let's look for that kind of change - stars that simply should not, by our theories, actually look like they do. On a bigger scale, areas of the universe that seem to have been tended or tuned to better serve life's (whatever that life is) purpose. We may not be able to recognize it as anything but a random pattern, but I'd say that it seems pretty reasonable to think, given our single example of an intelligent and technologically capable species, that intelligent and technologically capable life elsewhere in the universe might decide to modify its environment to better suit it as we have ours. Given how early we are in our own technological development it makes sense to look for the evidence left behind from species far in advance of ours (as it's astronomically unlikely they'll be at or near our level of advancement).

        Radio signals are great and all, but that's not the only way to prove there's something out there. Let's look for sources that are in disequilibrium and figure out how that's happening. At the worse we find nothing, middle of the road we find things that are perfectly natural but that our theories don't account for, and best case we find some truly amazing stuff.

      •   If there are VN or alien probes of any sort in the solar system, they will likely be so stealthed we can't detect them* (consider the level of technology you're implying) - otherwise they would have deliberately revealed their presence already.

          * Of course given the likely size of such probes they wouldn't have to do much stealthing for us to miss them

        SB

      • it would have the added benefit of providing actual communication with an alien intelligence (assuming a strong AI powered probe) verses shouting at each other and waiting 50 or more years for a response.

        Shouting and waiting 50+ years for a response is "actual communication" also. It's just SLOW actual communication. If we can't handle the idea of taking centuries or millenia to accomplish something worthwhile, we're never going to be ready to be an interstellar civilization...

      • by lennier (44736)

        SETI should be, in my opinion, more interested in searching the asteroid belts for Von Neumann probes than listening for radio signals.

        Those would be happy cheerful self replicating planet devouring robots [wikipedia.org], would they?

        For my part I'm quite happy for SETI to be actively avoiding finding anything like this in our backyard.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      The original, classic client screensaver was better though :(

      And c'mon, are you seriously comparing activity which follows strict, scientific code of conduct to YEC? (the latter have their sources in public domain for few thousand years btw, doesn't help them much) Yes, yes, "but they base their project on dubious promise"...well duh, who is going to get those data for Drake equation?

      Yes, the probability of SETI succeeding is very small...and so is, all things taken into consideration, their energy usage. B

    • They've already completed their scanning and analysis several times over.

      I suspect the problem isn't that SETI hasn't been going at this long enough, but rather that the entire assumption is that alien life would communicate in the same ways we would.

      http://www.xkcd.com/638/ [xkcd.com]

      While contact with a spare-faring alien species might be very beneficial, I'd rather donate my spare cycles to protein folding personally.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      Yeah, they've covered less than a thousandth of a percent of the galaxy, that's certainly an adequate sample size.

    •   This is like the young earth creationists releasing their data to the public.

        Since most of their "data" seems to be in the bible, wouldn't that be redundant? In any case they hardly make a secret of what "data" they have.

        The SETI@Home project, from my understanding, has literally terabytes of data they don't have computer power to analyze, even with the hundreds of thousands or millions of seti@home installations working out there.

      SB

    • by mjwx (966435)

      This is like the young earth creationists releasing their data to the public.

      I thought the bible was already public information.

      Or do you mean to tell me they have some credible data to go on?

  • by Rockoon (1252108)
    From TFA:

    Access the raw data we have published at setiQuest and show us how to process it in new ways, find signals that our current signal detection algorithms are missing.

    I suggest looking for data that fits too closely with white noise. Modern human digital data is highly compressed, and as such is nearly indistinguishable from random bits. Images, Music, Movies... the bulk of the traffic on the internet looks like random bits.

  • Where exactly is a 'citizen scientist' going to get the world's largest supercomputer (the Seti@home cluster)??? Unless by 'citizen scientist' you meant 'black market botnet operator'... because they are probably the only ones with the resources to pull it off with the scale that Seti@home has attained.

    How about democratizing the seti@home algorithm design? Maybe some fresh ideas, along with what is arguably the largest most successful distributed computing system ever created, is the best way to go; inst

    • by Jeng (926980)

      I thought that was what they were saying.

      As you state they have access to some heavy computation, they are just asking for fresh ideas on how to use it.

  • oh boy oh boy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by anonymousNR (1254032)
    cant wait for the false positives
  • With apologies to Carl Sagon.
  • by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @05:13PM (#31931426)
    E.T.'s signal-processing technology should be much better than ours. Just ask them for help.
    • by EdIII (1114411)

      E.T.'s signal-processing technology should be much better than ours.

      Dude, they picked that signal from a fucking Speak-n-Spell, a coffee can, and an umbrella from outer space. Possibly pretty damn far away too. I would say their signal processing technology could give Uhura and the Enterprise a run for their money.....

      Of course its also possible that E.T was just one of the 'slow' ones and their return had nothing to do with the device he built at all. They just finally noticed he was missing.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @05:22PM (#31931582) Homepage
    One serious problem with SETI is that even if there are other civilizations out there the timespan where they are sending out lots of radiowaves may be small. For example, humans have only had radio for about a hundred years. We sent out a lot for around 80 years but are now sending out less as we get more efficient and have other methods of communication (such as fiber optics). Moreover, many devices today use a spread spectrum approach http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spread_spectrum [wikipedia.org] which looks like close to white noise. Unfortunately, we don't have many options for searching for other types of signals since almost any other signal type that we can conceive of we simply won't be able to find.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SETIGuy (33768)

      The assumption of most SETI searches is that we are looking for a deliberate transmission and that a deliberate transmission will be sent in a form that is easy to detect. We've never had the capability of detecting earth's leakage signals even out to the nearest stars, even at our noisiest.

      Suppose you're on a tiny deserted island. On your island, you have a cell phone, a laptop computer, a flash light, a book of matches, and ample driftwood. In the distance you can see a large island or part of a land

    • have the other civilizations did there analog trun off and they are to far out to be picked up?

  • I have a feeling we'll be folding dimensions, poking holes in them and making new ones by time we understand how to break the laws of the one we're in. And then only to realize now that we've figured it all out why the hell would we want to figure out what else is in ours. Take out our trash and poof we're gone.
  • Before somebody pedantically states "wah wah universe is too big look at the scale of things we will never find life... enormous cosmic distances...blah...blah", let me just state to everybody making this argument until they are red in the face, one must consider the fact that an advanced Type II or Type III civilization may have the ability to utilize nifty physical principles like relativistic space contraction.

    Just because something seems astronomically and impractically far away from the standpoint o
  • by SETIGuy (33768) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @06:03PM (#31932228) Homepage

    Repeat after me... Jill Tarter is director of the SETI Institute. Despite their desire to be called SETI, they are not SETI. SETI is a scientific discipline. The SETI institute is an organization.

    Jill Tarter doesn't direct me, and, unlike most of the people at the SETI Institute, I actually do SETI.

  • What if... contact was made decades ago and "The Powers That Be" decided to keep this a secret.
    The contactors waited patiently for disclosure and now are impatient and will make disclosure themselves.

    What if ... the fears of "TPTB" are realized, that the world population will truly be pissed at "TPTB"?

    Should I feel sorry for the "TPTB" or should I call for the censure/ expulsion/ trial/ investigation of "TPTB" for all the grief perpetrated against all sentient life.

    How would YOU respond?
  • We hope that a global army of open source code developers, students, and other experts in digital signal processing,

    I had no idea there was this army. Who is the General in charge of it? What are its military objectives?

  • At some time in the future, aliens will be trying to decode OUR signals...

    (The information they broadcast must be very important. It is repeated many times - they had rotary wing VTOL craft, wore Khaki and lived in tents)

  • Ohh well, I must be cursed. I used PPC Ubuntu on my PS3 to access Usenet on Cox Cable.... lol but seriously, when are the people going to get a fair shake with all this corporate bullying?
  • So if there is a signal and they've made it available to everyone on Earth, how much does that work out to in damages?
  • The search for terrestrial intelligence proves to be as elusive.
  • It's likely that if we come into contact with a space-faring alien race, it's because they needed to get off their planet and find a new habitable one, for one reason or another. I'll wager that contact with ETs will prove to be our undoing if we succeed.

    However if they are a space-faring race capable of interstellar travel, we couldn't avoid getting detected by them if they were less than 70 or so light years away. We couldn't hide if we wanted to. If they have the technology to fly faster than light, it's

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