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 ones and zeros 1679. As the main initiator of the message to Frank Drake, who has since dedicated his life to the search for extraterrestrial civilizations. He also initiated the first systematic search for signals from extraterrestrials. Today these activities are primarily associated with the California-based SETI Institute in conjunction.
In May this year, Frank Drake was 80 years of age and took place in mid-August, Santa Clara, California, the first one for the general public thought SETI conference SetIcon instead. Reason enough for the Silicon Valley experiment, some of the classic blog SEO and Social Media to remove issues and publish a multi-part post. Billed as a conference with a difference, it should be reported and discussed not 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, as reported Seth Shostak, chief astronomer and a spokesman for the Institute.
It was the Congress fully funded by donations, sponsorship and tickets, as well as the SETI Institute. Only in certain framework receives support from NASA SETI eg in the field of astrology or at the SETI research instruments. Supply, including industries, Dell, Intel, and Google always with discarded computers. In this respect, the nonprofit Institute receives no tax dollars. A situation that had, for example Russell "Rusty" Schweickart appropriate. He argued that the search for extraterrestrial signals is indeed an honorable and desirable objective welcome, but no obvious benefit to the community and would therefore also should not be funded through general taxation. A view that some participants of the Congress surprised if one remembers that Rusty Schweigert as one of the Apollo astronauts 9 tested the lunar module in Earth orbit with Apollo himself. 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 the general public would again more integrated into the research.
The presentations had all sorts of issues 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 extensively 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 and its three planets discovered so far. The search for Earth-like planets are designed 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 planet possibly more. The working at the University of San Francisco astronomer believes that within the next 5 years can be expected in the size of Earth 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 now considered to be rather unusual. Other star systems are often much larger and orbiting closer to their sun planet. This does not mean, however, 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. Primary school teachers to university lecturers everything was represented. Therefore hardly in many lectures on the subject of language, how to inspire the young generation of science and bring them closer to the often dry topic.
A good example of this was, for example, an event with Tim Russ, known as the Vulcan Tuvok actor in the television series Star Trek: Voyager. But his acting was not the issue, but its activity, as amateur astronomer . Ross is often on the road to watch 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 for the subject he could convey without a doubt.
Good vs. Bad Science 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 undoubtedly bring science closer and thus enthusiastic young people on issues in the region, but also reach the public much. For example, when Dr. Like a sequence is sent in which it comes to breast cancer screening and appeals, then increase the requests for screening at the doctors. The National Academy of Science has created its own place, which serves as a link between authors, television producers and film makers on the one hand and scientific advisors on the other side.
TV 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 inevitable 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 reasonable and logically represented in it.
So Jennifer Ouellette brought as director of the 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, resulting in the mold is nonsense. Here they reported, it very well could have been a scientific accurate solution by the thief would ionize 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.
- Total Lost As laudable example 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 context of 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 for beginners or foreign languages such as Japanese. This online university can successfully complete with tests. On the new Blu-ray release will be also integrated the Lost University. Thousands of participants have successfully completed these courses.
In doing so, authors such as Robert J. Sawyer (author of FlashForward and other SF books) or producers of shows like Eureka and Star Trek thanked for scientific input. Proper scientific basis often makes the difference whether a story the viewer arrives credible and conclusive 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 other planets. The discussions were there almost all not dry, but also characterized by humor. For example, when the subject came up, whether traveling faster than light would be 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 restriction 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 expenditure would be less than infinity. From then on would be more a problem of engineering problem.
Presentation of a Murderer
A nail-biting conclusion of the conference was still the talk of Mike Brown.
The California astronomer has for many years engaged in the search and discovery of numerous minor planets outside the path of Pluto. With Eris, Sedna and others he has thus discovered worlds 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 is not entirely innocent.
If something strange happened in the outer solar system, we blame Neptune.
He was in charge of the responsibility that Pluto stripped of its status as a planet, and the new class of dwarf planets was created. As " murderers of Pluto but "he could explain his case convincingly, so that at the end of many participants - the previously still wanted to see Pluto as a planet - recognized that the downgrade was a logical and sensible decision.
He also reported on his discovery of the dwarf planet Sedna, which he explained very humorous and vivid. The highly elliptical orbit and the large current distance (three times farther away than Neptune) makes Sedna to a unique world. Fascinating about this is the world moves away due to its highly elliptical orbit up to 5 days of light from the sun. During his 12,000 years to orbit 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 to search particular the hitherto poorly explored southern sky systematically to other dwarf planets so far.
However, the notice of astronomers has to worry that he intends something special with Mercury. He would on his Twitter account @ pluto killer but since 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 missions to Mars . ( FS )