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SETI at Home closing down—and the double standard

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Catching up with Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), we learn:

After March 31, a bunch of amateur alien hunters will regain some personal computing power. The Berkeley SETI Research Center announced Monday that SETI@home, the two-decades-old crowdsourcing effort to hunt for signs of E.T. in radio telescope data using internet-connected computers, is shutting down at the end of the month.

The home-based search for extraterrestrial intelligence project was launched from University of California, Berkeley, back in 1999 — when the internet was still a relatively new thing to many people and the term crowdsourcing had not yet been coined…

“Scientifically, we’re at the point of diminishing returns; basically, we’ve analyzed all the data we need for now,” reads a post to the SETI@home website and forum. “It’s a lot of work for us to manage the distributed processing of data. We need to focus on completing the back-end analysis of the results we already have, and writing this up in a scientific journal paper.”

Eric Mack, “SETI@home to shut down after two decades of crowdsourced alien hunting” at CNet

We are told “it’s work is done.” And no aliens were heard from.

We heard plenty about aliens but nothing from them.

Some point to a curious double standard:

These same scientists looking for coded information signals would never admit that such signals have already been found right here on Earth, encoded in the DNA of life! Yet, coded DNA is not known to arise from non-living matter either (it is simply assumed). A signal that contained a language code would be easily recognizable as coming from an intelligent source. So, it appears they have set the bar pretty low by looking for a metric of “pulsed signals”,3 as in regularly repeating blips for example. (But to avoid the false positive of a pulsar, the pulses would need to vary in time or frequency. Yet even this low bar has not been climbed.) By the way—we can say for sure that DNA does also include this (and obviously much more)!

Paul Price and Gary Bates, “SETI@home project closing down” at Creation.com

Yes, of course. But “science” has come to mean inventing endless creative explanations for why the space aliens must be out there while ignoring the intelligence embedded in nature.

See also: Astronomers hope to wring their space aliens from Bayesian analysis. In the real world, we are hoping to find fossil bacteria on Mars. There may or may not be fossil bacteria on Mars but the search feels more like (real) science.

2 Replies to “SETI at Home closing down—and the double standard

  1. 1
    Querius says:

    Years ago, one of my colleagues participated in SETI. I was curious whether the data he was processing could detect the earth if it were somewhere out there. He didn’t know, so he asked SETI. The answer was no.

    Still, it would be interesting to apply modern AI filters to the data set to look for general patterns and similarities that might help cosmology.

    DNA and multiple overlapping epigenetic codes are of course fantastically complex as are the biochemicals and cycles that they encode. The ratio of Carl Sagan’s billions and billions of planets and life’s Goldilocks requirements create an indeterminate form. We might not have reliable access to all the cosmological data we need, but we do have easy access to DNA and living things.

    So, since evolution and paleo geology are now considered to be well understood, it should be relatively easy to generate simple life forms by continuing the celebrated Miller-Urey experiment, right?

    -Q

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    It’s refreshing to see a project closing down when it decides that its purpose isn’t worth the trouble. The BIG problem in the world today is one of Parkinson’s Laws. Organizations never disappear when their purpose is finished. They find new purposes, and sometimes the new purposes are evil. We’re seeing it right now with Public Health Departments. They served a purpose 100 years ago when sanitation was awful. They served again 60 years ago when smallpox and polio vaccines were distributed. Since then, Public Health Officers weren’t needed. Now in 2020 they have transformed themselves into Public Death Officers, intentionally using their knowledge of immunity to DEFEAT every single aspect of immunity. No exercise, no confidence, no work, no fresh air, no proper food, no regular contact with other people, and microbes recirculated by masks. It’s a perfect reversal. Every single aspect of life that helps us stay alive is eliminated or inverted.

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