SETI

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SETI is an acronym that stands for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. The majority of SETI projects survey space to detect radio signals that would indicate the existence of life beyond Earth. There are also optical SETI projects to detect laser activity, and projects to send signals in hopes of generating a response. The following web sites appear to represent the majority of SETI information and efforts, either via information presented on the sites or via links to other sites and information. All of these sites are technical in nature, which is appropriate for the subject, and this requires a minimum level of understanding and education on the part of the viewer. These sites will show that SETI research has a rich history, with significant current efforts in progress. It is not to be confused with extremes sometimes associated with UFOs, alien abductions, crop circles, etc; instead, it is a pursuit to observe intelligent life existing elsewhere in the universe, based on mainstream scientific method.


The SETI Instituteis a non-profit corporation founded in 1984, based in Mountain View, California. It employs over 100 scientists, educators and support staff. Project sponsors include NASA, the National Science Foundation , the Department of Energy , the US Geological Survey, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) , and numerous other foundations, corporations and academic groups. The SETI Institute has an established permanence beyond the other leading entities in the field. The web site is top-tier and is rich in content, it is the #1 site dedicated to the subject of SETI. This site has tons of pictures and up to date links on all of SETI's current activities.


The SETI Leagueidentifies itself as “the leading membership-supported, non-profit {501(c)(3)}, educational and scientific organization Searching for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence”. The General Information web page includes a link titled “What is the SETI Institute?”, where the difference between the two groups is explained. The look and feel of this site are in contrast with the other sites listed, and were it not for the other sites’ identification of The SETI League as a top-level entity in the field, this site and this group might be dismissed based on the web site. For example, the Executive Director of The SETI League, Dr. H. Paul Shuch, is identified also known as “Dr. SETI”, and he writes songs on the subject. He is pictured, wielding his guitar, with “notorious radio personality Dr. Demento”. But don’t be deterred or jump to the wrong conclusion: the site is worth exploring, the information is legitimate and first-hand, the sources are primary players in SETI, and the presentation is ultimately endearing. This site has a lot of links to a bunch of information on SETI. Its also a little disorganized and can get confusing at times.

For general information on the subject, Wikipedia is thorough. The entry on SETI covers background, past and current efforts, and a section on criticism leveled at the pursuit. Even when undertaken by the most respected groups, some argue that SETI is not science, but instead religion. This controversy is interesting unto itself, and adds a dimension to the subject. This site is typical of well-edited Wikipedia pages, by design not professional, but very close in terms of broad content and good presentation.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, more well known as simply NASA, provides a brief historical overview of official NASA SETI programs and participation, as well as links to detailed papers on the subject. Understanding NASA’s involvement in the SETI efforts lends legitimacy to the pursuit. The SETI Institute and the SETI League are identified as having assumed NASA’s role in SETI. The NASA page looks a little old, because it was last updated in 2003, but the overall web site is current and a worthy source reference, for all subjects related to space. It is a very short site but contains links to a lot of information about NASA and the SETI program. The language is easy to understand and does not require someone to have a lot of knowledge about astronomy.


SETI projects at UC Berkeley include SETI@home, which allows individuals to link their internet-connected computers to perform analysis of radio telescope data, while the computers would otherwise sit idle. Other SETI projects in progress at UC Berkeley are also covered on the site, especially the SERENDIP SETI sky survey using the world's largest radio telescope, and Optical SETI. This site is more technical than the rest, geared more toward active participants than casual observers. This page is great for ordinary people who just want to get involved in the SETI program. With SETI@home anyone can be a part of the search for extra-terrestrial life.


http://www.coseti.org/ This website itself doesnt look like much considering the guy who made, Stuart Kingsley, but a closer look reveals a link to a similarly named website http://www.coseti.org/www.boseti.org/ where in much more depth giving a lot of facts and states "Since 1990 I have expended much effort in promoting the Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, otherwise known as Optical SETI or OSETI. This was an idea first suggested by Nobel Laureate Charles H. Townes in 1961. Through most of those years since then, the SETI community had strongly opposed the optical approach to SETI. In 1998, opposition to OSETI crumbled and the main-stream SETI organizations initiated their own OSETI research programs. Through much of the past decade, The Columbus Optical SETI Observatory and its Web Site www.coseti.org has been the main means by which I have promoted the Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence." This website definitely gives some good research points of view and they know what they are talking about.

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http://seti.net/ This intriguing website is made more like a built project where the creator states "SETI. Net is not a UFO page but a serious attempt to build the machinery, electronics, and logic necessary to detect a signal "not from terra" (Extraterrestrial). If your interested to know what kind of signals this SETI station is optimized to see select this link (What I am looking for). If you would like to know what I would do if/when ET calls (SETI Net Detection Protocol)." The one thing I found wrong with this site is that it aims to be much to technical and even though it tries to explain its actions, some of it doesn't pertain to the overall point of their project. With many charts and graphs, it does give you something to look at, but some of the reading just makes you feel like you can skip it. I think the most interesting part of the website is about their origins and about Carl Sagans first thoughts.


http://seti.harvard.edu/seti/ This is another website based out of a university and a good one at that. The things Harvard has to share are quite interesting and an always welcome second opinion on SETI. According to their website "META (the Million-channel Extraterrestrial Assay) was a search program that was in operation from 1985 to 1995 at the Harvard/Smithsonian 26-meter steerable Cassegrain radio telescope at Harvard, Massachusetts. BETA (the Billion-channel Extraterrestrial Assay) is our new search program which went on-line October 30, 1995." This nicely formatted website goes over their own theories presented in a BETA paper and also discusses Optical SETI and theories about if we have already found aliens or not.

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Submitted December 7, 2007 - Doug Schlieter, LMC Astronomy 10, Fall 2007
Submitted November 28, 2009 - Doug Schlieter, LMC Astronomy 10, Fall 2009