Saturday, December 05, 2009


I’m not a big fan of SETI but only because it seems to have made some early assumptions in its search for extraterrestrial intelligence that might be too human in nature. That is, originally, they were looking for radio signals at what the called the water hole or the most common radio frequencies because they believed that any advanced civilization would be using radio and looking in the same place. I can think of all sorts of things that are wrong with that assumption, but hey, you had to start somewhere. Yes, I know they have now expanded beyond that and that they can search huge portions of the sky fairly rapidly.

As one who supports the idea that some UFOs represent alien visitation, I was always a little annoyed at the SETI attitude that UFOs had nothing to do with what they were attempting to do. That is, contact an extraterrestrial intelligence. I’m not saying they should have signed up UFO supporters but they should have made a pass at that evidence in case there was something relevant to their search.

But, of course, I supported the idea behind SETI because if they were successful, then one of the reasons to reject UFOs as alien would be eliminated... just as the discovery of extra solar planets have eliminated one of the reasons.

Given all this, I was horrified to learn, according to KPHO-TV in Phoenix, that Brad Niesluchowski, had resigned as a teacher from the Highley Unified School District because he had signed up the district’s computers to participate in the SETI@home project (and for those of you who don’t know what it is, Google it).

A spokeswomen for the district said that they would support cancer research but not something like the search for "E.T." She pointed out that it was costing the district about a million a year to support the program because it kept the district’s computers working all the time which upped their utility fees and caused additional wear and tear on the computers causing more repairs and replacements.

Okay. Fair enough. If the fellow had done this on his own, and it was costing the district that much, then, hey, he made a bad call... except the software used to download the program had been authorized by a previous school administration.

Wait a minute. He didn’t decide for himself to do this. He got permission... then why is he out of a job and why is there now a police investigation? And this has been going on for ten years.

The SETI folks see him as a hero. I have to agree. Seems to me that someone in the school administration didn’t see that it was going to cost so much (and I wonder if it really does) but Nez, as he is known in the SETI world, got authorization to do it. Shut it down if you must but don’t punish the guy for something he was given permission to do.


Bob Koford said...

I remember when it started it was called Communications with Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (CETI), and at the time there were rumblings about a signal emminating from Tau Ceti/Omicron.

There was a change, and it re-emerged as the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Never remembered hearing the full reasons for the change in names.

Wasn't this also approximately the same time that Carl Sagan was an influence on the UFO investigations?

Lance said...

From the Wikipedia:

CETI (Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is a branch of SETI research that focuses on composing and deciphering messages that could theoretically be understood by another technological civilization. The best-known CETI experiment was the 1974 Arecibo message composed by Frank Drake and Carl Sagan.

CETI research has focused on four broad areas: mathematical languages, pictorial systems such as the Arecibo message, algorithmic communication systems (ACETI) and computational approaches to detecting and deciphering 'natural' language communication.

Frank Stalter said...

I'm sure the SETI program has made some interesting listening finds. I think the real advances are being done by the astronomers looking for exo-planets via visual confirmation.

Find those Earth-like planets and life will be there. Find a few of them and perhaps SETI can listen in there.

Bob Koford said...

Upon digging out some of my books from the garage:

"The Puzzle Palace", by James Bamford c.r. 1982:
(Page 220)

"Since its beginnings in the mid-1950s, the secret surrounding Sugar grove has been intense. The cover story throughout the entire
life of the Project was that the six-hundred-foot dish was purely
for research and radio astronomy, permitting scientists 'to tune in
on radio signals as far as 38 billion light years away,' according to the local newspaper...Even today, twenty years after the enormous steel ear recieved its death notice, the blanket of secrecy around the project remains as tightly drawn as ever. The reason is that Sugar grove continues to be one of the NSA's most important--and secret-listening posts."

Also: "We Are Not Alone", by Walter Sullivan, c.r. 1964
(Chapter 14 - Project Ozma - Pages 197, and 198)

"Eagerness to observe on the magic wavelength of 21 centimeters had
been a major factor in persuading the government of the need for a
national observatory and, as noted in the last chapter, the first
big antenna at Green Bank was designed with such observations in
mind. At about the time that the dish was completed, in March 1959,
(Frank)Drake went to a nearby grill facetiously called "Antoine's for a quick lunch with Lloyd V. Berkner, acting director of the
observatory and head of Associated Universities. The latter was a
teaming-up of nine Northwestern universities whose first job had
been to establish the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long
Island, home of the world's most powerful atom smasher."

Michael Malone said...

Can I call BS on the whole "Cost's a million dollars" thing? That's crap. Or a whole lot of computers. Leaving a computer running SETI@Home for a year can't be more than $10. I think that's high. That's 100,000 computers. That's a lot of SETI time. Back when I used to do it, they would rank groups as to how many "packets" they analyzed. Was this school near the top? They must have been, providing such a super-computer cluster.

Sounds like something else happened. If he REALLY did get fired over SETI@Home and not some other reason, then he clearly has a lawsuit and the union will be all over this. Frankly, if he doesn't file, then he got fired for some other reason and this is fluff to protect someone.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.