(C) Cyrus Farivar, Source: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/05/42_fulltime_rad/

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Today, 36 years ago, and 3 months has left the radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and thus the birth of the active search for the answer to the question "Are we alone" initiated a series of 1,679 ones and zeros. As the main initiator of the message to Frank Drake, who has since dedicated his life to the search for extraterrestrial civilizations. He initiated as well as the first systematic search for signals from extraterrestrials. Today these activities are primarily associated with the SETI Institute in California-based connection.

In May this year, Frank Drake was 80 years old and mid-August was held in Santa Clara, California, the first one for the general public thought SETI conference SetIcon instead. Reason enough for the Silicon Valley experiment, blog some of the classic SEO and Social Media to remove topics and publish a multi-part post. Billed as a conference with a difference, it should be reported and discussed only far from the headquarters of Yahoo! on the state of research and related topics. Even the participants indicated that they felt seriously committed to this goal. Scientists came from the Institute for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), NASA and universities here along with actors from Star Trek on, astronauts next science fiction authors, musicians next to university professors.

Overall, 450 participants had previously registered for the conference. 1,000 visitors attended the event, as reported Seth Shostak, chief astronomer and one of the speakers of the Institute.

Many visitors to the SetIcon

Many visitors to the SetIcon

It was Congress , funded entirely by donations, sponsorship and tickets, such as the SETI Institute also. Only in certain framework SETI receives support from NASA, for example in the field of astrology or at the SETI research instruments. Also supply from the economy DELL, Intel and Google over and over again on scrap computers. In this respect, the non-profit institution receives no tax dollars. A situation that held, for example, Russell "Rusty" Schweickart appropriate. He argued that the search for extraterrestrial signals, although being a respectable and welcoming desirable objective, but has no apparent use to the public would and should therefore not be funded through general taxation. A view that some participants of the congress was astonished when one remembers that Rusty Schweigert as one of the Apollo astronauts 9 Lunar Module tested himself with Apollo in Earth orbit. Apollo is still regarded as a rather politically motivated project, which brought relatively little scientific knowledge in relation to the funds employed,

By funding the SETI Institute has often face limited options. This spurred the staff - including at least two Nobel laureates - to, to deal with efficient hardware and software solutions, particularly in the field of signal processing. Many years ago, a project at the University of Berkeley was inspired by SETI. With the help of screen savers on thousands of private PCs signals from radio telescopes were evaluated for abnormalities. The Seti @ Home project of the University was thus a model for many other applications, in which everyone can participate with their own PC, eg in the field of cancer research. With the setiQuest project aims to build on these successes and wants the public again more integrated into the research.

The presentations had all sorts of topics and were varied:

447 worlds and counting ...

Debra Fischer , an astronomer and the first woman who has discovered a planet in another solar system reported in detail on the state of planet hunting. Understandable to lay the different search methods have been shown and examples of the discovered till now more than 400 planets shown, including, for example, the system Upsilon Andromedae with its three planets discovered so far. The search for Earth-like planets turns out particularly difficult and it became clear that science is particularly involved in the new space telescope 'Kepler' here. This is for one year in operation and have already discovered over 400 stars as candidate to circle the possibly other planets. The working at the University of San Francisco astronomer believes that within the next 5 years can be expected in Earth's size with the discovery of the first planet. Whether this can then also host life, again is another question that still can not answer today. Because one of the major surprises was that our solar system is up to date as rather unusual. Other star systems are often much larger and orbiting closer to their sun planet. This has, however, not mean that our solar system but it must feel like something special again - the previous search methods could hardly discover a planet in our solar system much more similar.

Education, entertainment, science

After a few lectures noticed that many visitors came from the education sector. From basic school teachers to university lecturers everything was represented. Therefore hardly in many lectures up the subject of how to inspire the young generation of science and bring them the often dry subject closer.

Tim "Tuvok" Russ

Tim "Tuvok" Russ

A good example of this was, for example, an event with Tim Russ, known as a cast member of the Vulcan Tuvok in the television series Star Trek: Voyager. But his acting was not the issue, but its activities, as amateur astronomer . Ross is often on the road to watch with his four telescopes to Nebula and heap. He told of his experience with filters, telescopes and how to find good places for observations, which in the greater Los Angeles area where he lives is not an easy task. With the star-gazing, he has begun with just over 30, but the enthusiasm on the subject he could give no doubt.

Bad Science vs Good Science

Overall, the interface between science and the public was a dominant theme, especially when it came to film and television. The entertainment industry can no doubt bring science closer and thus enthusiastic young people on issues in the field, but also reach the public much. For example, when Dr. House a sequence is sent in which it comes to breast cancer and the preventive responsive, thereafter rising requests for screening at the doctors. The National Academy of Science has created its own place, which serves as a link between book writers, television producers and film makers on the one hand and scientific advisors on the other side.

Bad Science in Movies & TV

Bad Science in Movies & TV

Television shows such as Dr. House, Lie to Me, Fringe, Big Bang Theory, Lost, and others were called here. Criticism was there when science is misrepresented or nonsensical. It accepted the scien that the "Storytelling" certain basic needs.

It is unavoidable that in series CSI, NCIS or Bones DNA analysis may not last as in reality weeks or months, but is present within a few hours. However, one would wish that, based on a "wild idea", at least everything is based on meaningful and logically represented in it.

So Jennifer Ouellette brought as director of this program at the National Academy of Science a few examples from popular TV series:

  • As a result, the axis of the Pythia of the series Angel, the professional thief Gwen articulated by its electromagnetic power from a laser beam, which in shape is nonsense. Here, they reported, would have very well been a scientific accurate solution by the thief would have ionized the air.
  • While in the episode The great silence from the same franchise, Buffy the exploding heads can be scientifically explained very well by the cry of the main protagonist.
  • As a whole praiseworthy example Lost was performed. Thus, the problems of time travel in the series were very well represented correctly, among others, that the past can not be changed. In the environment, the series Lost University (http://www.lostuniversity.org/) was founded. There you can participate in several hours of courses on topics such as introduction to the physics of time travel or foreign languages ​​such as Japanese for beginners. This online university can successfully complete with tests. On the new Blu-ray release will be also integrated the Lost University. Thousands of participants who successfully complete these courses.

It also authors like Robert J. Sawyer (author of FlashForward and other SF books) or producers of shows like Eureka and Star Trek have thanked for scientific input. Proper scientific basis often makes all the difference whether a story the viewer credible and conclusive arrives and not as pure fantasy and thus acts uninteresting.

Robot or protoplasm

Other topics dealt with the problem of space travel. Be it with possibilities of interstellar travel or the question whether the protoplasm should be sent in the form of humans or robots to Mars and the other planets. The discussions were there almost all not dry, but also characterized by humor. For example, when the issue arose as to whether travel would be faster than light possible. All physicists thought that this is impossible, but it could very well come up with the help of wormholes and other a "bypass" this limitation is. However, all these theoretical possibilities would very much need a lot of energy. But this was not deter physicists to pursue such thoughts constructs. In their view, any form of interstellar travel is interesting, as long as the energy required would be less than infinite. From then on, would be more a problem of engineering problem.

The Pluto Killer

The Pluto Killer

Presentation of a Murderer

A nail-biting conclusion the conference was held still with a lecture by Mike Brown.

The California astronomer has for many years engaged in the search and discovery of numerous minor planets beyond Pluto's orbit. With Eris, Sedna and others, he has thus discovered worlds that are like large or even larger than Pluto. There are also 1,200 other objects that are smaller or much smaller, and move as asteroids and dwarf planets outside the orbit of Pluto.

The Most objects have eccentric orbits. The cause is not known, it is believed that Neptune it is not entirely innocent.

If something strange happened in the outer solar system, we blame Neptune.

He was in charge responsible for ensuring that Pluto stripped of its status as a planet and the new class of dwarf planets was created. As a " killer of Pluto , however, "he was able to explain his case convincingly, so in the end, many participants - the previously Pluto still wanted to see as a planet - recognized that the downgrade was a logical and sensible decision.

He also reported on his discovery of the dwarf planet Sedna, he has stated very humorous and vividly. The highly elliptical orbit and the large current distance (three times farther than Neptune) makes Sedna to a unique world. Fascinating about this is the world away due to its highly elliptical orbit up to 5 days of light from the sun. During his 12,000 years orbiting around the sun, it is only about 200 years so close to the sun that you could discover him - what then happened in 2003. So a big stroke of luck, but at the same time also an indication that there could be a lot more and more extreme dwarf planet in the outer solar system. A new telescope in Australia should search in particular the hitherto poorly explored southern sky systematically by other dwarf planets therefore now.

However, disturbance of the reference must say the astronomers, that he is planning something special with Mercury. He would via his Twitter account @ pluto killer but since you informed.

In the following days, three more articles about SetIcon 2010 will appear with the emphases search for extraterrestrial life , the open source project of the SETI Institute and the possibility of a Mars mission . ( FS )

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