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Space Science

SETI Institute Is Looking For a Few Good Algorithms 98

blackbearnh writes "For years, people have been using SETI@Home to help search for signs of extraterrestrial life in radio telescope data. But Jill Tarter, director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute, wants to take things to the next level. Whereas SETI@Home basically used people's computers as part of a giant distributed network to run a fixed set of filters written by SETI researchers, Tarter thinks someone out there may have even better search algorithms that could be applied. She's teamed with a startup called Cloudant to make large volumes of raw data from the new Allen telescope available, and free Amazon EC2 processing time to crunch the data. According to Tarter: 'SETI@Home came on the scene a decade ago, and it was brilliant and revolutionary. It put distributed computing on the map with such a sexy application. But in the end, it's been service computing. You could execute the SETI searches that were made available to you, but you couldn't make them any better or change them. We'd like to take the next step and invite all of the smart people in the world who don't work for Berkeley or for the SETI Institute to use the new Allen Telescope. To look for signals that nobody's been able to look for before because we haven't had our own telescope; because we haven't had the computing power.'"
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SETI Institute Is Looking For a Few Good Algorithms

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  • by DriedClexler ( 814907 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:31PM (#32880118)

    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from noise. I remembered hearing this in school ...

    Well, to be more precise, it follows as an implication of:

    1) Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. (Clarke's 3rd Law.)
    2) Maximally compressed data is indistinguishable from noise. (Theorem in information theory.)

    A sufficiently advanced civilization will ("magically") hit the theoretical compression maximum, and that will look like random noise. (Anyone's head hurting yet?)

  • by rm999 ( 775449 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:51PM (#32880358)

    If you take truly compressed data, which resembles uniform noise, you will see a uniform distribution, not the one described in Zipf's law.

  • by arc86 ( 1815912 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:53PM (#32880372)
    (This is not my field, but) I think a good way to state it is that if you are sending a data stream that has any order or predictability to it, you are not using your communication resources most efficiently. Surely the aliens wouldn't have truly optimal efficiency, but as they get smarter they will make it harder and harder for us to find them. (Ha. Maybe the efficiency is a happy side-effect.)
  • by O('_')O_Bush ( 1162487 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:32PM (#32881878)
    "Sorry to rant a bit but why the hell would a civilization sent out a radio signal from their planet? Look at us, all we do is "listen" but we don't build any transmitters capable of transmitting a signal across a thousand light years. Transmit first, listen second."

    I hope you're trolling.

    Welcome to 80 years ago. Our civilization has been spamming decipherable signals at the speed of light since it's been able to. And so far, that's the best we can do, unless you have some secret method of transmitting data across dozens of light-years faster than the universal speed limit of light speed with any technology that is practically obtainable in the next few decades.

When you make your mark in the world, watch out for guys with erasers. -- The Wall Street Journal