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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 Wintermute__ ( 22920 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @05:53PM (#32879602)

    Just wait and see what kinds of interesting "patterns" hordes of uninformed basement "researchers" can come up with given this huge dataset.

    I predict hilarity.

  • Now they tell us. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @05:58PM (#32879694) Homepage Journal

    So this is the beginning of the contest for better algorithms (ignoring how ee measure if they are better, since no one's found the data they are looking for in the first place), and then of course a new round of analyzing the data again.

    - Issue call for better algorithms.

    - Reprocess the data.

    - Find nothing.

    - Must be the algorithm.

    - Repeat.

    SETI will never die. It will just question its assumptions.


  • by kalidasa ( 577403 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:02PM (#32879730) Journal
    We're far enough away from any likely candidate systems that we would only pick up very high power omni-directional signals - in other words, intentional beacons. Such a beacon is unlikely to be highly encoded (though there might be an associated signal that *is* highly encoded, and to which there is a pointer in the beacon signal). In other words, we don't have to worry too much about the Kolmogorov complexity of extra-terrestrial signals, because we won't be "overhearing" anything.
  • by gmezero ( 4448 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:14PM (#32879884) Homepage

    SETI as designed is incapable of even detecting and decoding something akin to the Arecibo message, so I'm always puzzled at how they think they're actually going to know when they have hot data for real. I applaud the effort but I've always felt it was more of a feel-good activity for people to join in on. Hmm....

  • by should_be_linear ( 779431 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:40PM (#32880232)
    I guess we will also in 100 years or so realize that we emit nothing but noise, and short distance one for that matter (Wi-Fi, some future gen). So, if we want to be visible to potential neighbors, we must establish "pulsing station", which emits something intelligent and easily detectable, like prime numbers. But it is unlikely it will be old fashioned radio signal. It is probably hard to detect from such distances because it is destroyed by objects on its way (stars, galaxies, small objects, gas, whatever). Maybe neutrinos, such pulse could pass trough everything on its way, and maybe there is way to pickup that broadcast somehow on the other side (if there is, they will know how). So, maybe it is just to early for this sort of projects, there is homework on inter-galactic broadcast to do, and one that actually make sense, not analog TV.
  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @07:02PM (#32880510)

    SETI will never die. It will just question its assumptions.

    Why should it die? Keep in mind that we already have one group of sentient, radio broadcasting beings.

  • by grumbel ( 592662 ) <> on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:00PM (#32881232) Homepage

    The chance to detect radio waves that leaked out from an alien civilization are rather slim, as technology moves forward and thus accidental radio broadcasts quickly become undetectable (lower power, better compression, etc.). So its really about intentionally send signals and for those radio waves are simply the best bet, as they are much easier to produce then any stellar size constructions, they are also easy to detect and they also allow you to actually submit real information. Arranging a few stars tells you that aliens are real, but nothing more and you probably spend a few million or billion years moving them around.

  • by gmagill ( 105538 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:39PM (#32881540)

    c'mon, moderators... that was a good one

  • GPU Algorithms?? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by gabereiser ( 1662967 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:43PM (#32881970)
    What always amazes me (besides the argument that SETI project will never know if it actually has anything) is the fact that a lot of the data could be processed faster on the GPU than the CPU. Why not use some OpenCL or Cuda or DirectCompute to harness parallel computing power ON TOP of the current schema? Processing Perlin Noise on the CPU is ~5x slower than on the GPU these days so why not map the data to a texture and run the filters on the GPU instead?

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson