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Still Searching: SETI Pioneer Jill Tarter Talks Shutdown, Aliens

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posted on Apr, 29 2011 @ 08:49 AM
For many alien enthusiasts, Jill Tarter is synonymous with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. As the SETI Institute’s research director — and the inspiration for Jodie Foster’s character in Contact — she’s done more than anyone to raise the search for cosmic company from a fringe effort to serious science. talked with Jill Tarter about the shutdown and what it means for the future of SETI. The dishes are in hibernation mode now. What exactly does that mean? Tarter: It means the array runs on a smaller staff. We keep the caretaker staff. We keep power on the antennas, so the cryogenics stay cold and they don’t get harmed. We just put them in a safe mode. But you can’t operate them, you can’t take data. Does that mean you’re expecting to bring it back up? Tarter: We’re doing everything we possibly can to bring it out of hibernation. But that, you know, that requires new funding. We’re talking with the Air Force, and we’re hopeful for that. But we also need the public to step up and support SETI research, to keep that on an even keel. This unfortunate situation, coming at just the wrong time, when we were just beginning a two-year search of these Kepler worlds — we hope people understand the irony of that.

Natural radio emissions from the Andromeda galaxy, courtesy of SETI. Tell me about the Kepler project. What were you going to do there? Tarter: Before Kepler launched, we knew about a couple of hundred exoplanets. Most of those were big or right next to their stars. Not likely to be habitable. The Kepler worlds are different. There are 68 of them that are about the same size as Earth, of which it’s calculated that 54 may be in the “Goldilocks” habitable zone. And there’s 1,235 of them altogether, which [extrapolated] gives us the statistic that we can expect 50 billion planets in the galaxy, and 500 million of those are likely to be habitable. The Kepler results have changed the way we can do our research. We can now point where we know there are likely to be good planet candidates. That’s a change. This is a fantastic new bounty of potential and information. That makes it a particularly bad time to be shutting down the telescopes. Tarter: It’s a hugely frustrating time. [SETI senior astronomer] Seth Shostak is all over the place with a great one-liner: “It’s as if the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria were called back to dry dock.” The other thing we’re doing now, which we’ve never done before, is trying to get the world involved. We’re trying to open up this search so that it isn’t just done in a silo by a tiny priesthood of astronomers.


Well, I know a lot of people have lost interest in SETI but really, we can't. We need to keep our eyes and ears open-here on Earth. If we ever are going to have hope of proving there is other life out there somewhere, we have to have the tools to do it.

I admit, I was never a big fan of the program myself until recently. It just seems there is a combined effort to stop our Space progress. Maybe it's just me but seriously. I think we are taking One Big Step Backward for (against) mankind.

Maybe I am wrong. Read the article. You can almost hear/feel her passion for the subject. Just the type we need there now. IMO.

What I thought was interesting was how she was speaking with the USAF and was hopeful. I think they would be a logical choice except that they most likely would use it to their exclusive benifit and not tell us anything if they did get a singal back etc.

posted on Apr, 29 2011 @ 08:55 AM
weird, my SETI BOINC manager shows i'm still crunching data for SETI as we speak. #7 in the above top secret team by the way!

i guess its crunching older data then?
crossing fingers for SETI's ground hog day when it can come out of hibernation, no matter how moot the system may be.
edit on 4/29/2011 by zooplancton because: added the word team.

posted on Apr, 29 2011 @ 08:58 AM
reply to post by anon72

Maybe the logical conclusion to all of this is why keep on investing in something, when contact has already been made?

Just a thought.

posted on Apr, 29 2011 @ 09:05 AM
Sorry, but I never dug SETI.

We're talking radio waves here. Who else would be using them??? And if someone WAS using them, they would have to be mighty close.

I can almost guarantee that radio technology is a (more or less) transient technology and many civilizations are well beyond that - or well before...

posted on Apr, 29 2011 @ 09:10 AM
Well said OP. Having worked on SETI research, With the university of california (number Crunching),
Quadrillions of floating-points opperations with classic work units.

The money is not getting there and much of the work has for years been drafted out to Ordernary people on millions of P.C's World wide!. now what little or no funding it is Night Night for Setti. David.P.Anderson Director of SETI@Home has gave all he can give now Setti needs big investers The problem is there is little to none $ to be made so not many people jumping in to give up the cash. theres not only the dish to up-keep or the big object in the night sky. theres mega computers to upgrade hard drive servers to repare and keep fit and thousands of other expensive items that make SETI work. It's a Money Pit. But it is worth it.

I live in the U.K. but SETI server the World. Best of luck and thanks for the post.

posted on Apr, 29 2011 @ 09:32 AM
reply to post by zooplancton

Wow, I didn't know we have people involved.

Have you done any threads on your work etc? I think that is cool as heck.

From what I gather, I can do this from my PC at home too?

Tell me more!!!

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