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What’s SETI doing these days?

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SETI instituteAccording to David Shiga (New Scientist 18 May 2011), they’ve been repurposed after the recent shutdown* when state funds dried up: “Alien-hunters focus in on habitable planets”:

Astronomers from the University of California, Berkeley, the SETI Institute of California, and the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory are listening for alien signals from dozens of planets in the so-called “habitable zone” of their stars, the first time a targeted search of this kind has been undertaken.

“We’ve honed the list to the really exciting exoplanets,” says team member Dan Werthimer of UC Berkeley

Essentially, they are looking for planets in habitable zones.

That is, looking for vacant apartments, not just tenanted ones. Any apartments at all.

Guillermo Gonzalez might say they were wasting their time but:

File under: Hope springs eternal

* Shutdown: “The SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in Hat Creek, California, was forced to stop listening for signals in April because of a funding shortfall.”

Eric at 2, I agree, and am glad that the SETI personnel have (well, some of them) found jobs in a field more likely to produce information than waiting for alien signals. News
Two things: SETI is seen by many as a funding boondoggle, which it may be, but it is based on sound principles, namely looking for the identifying signature of intelligent activity. Indeed, Dembski cites SETI as an example of design inference. Oh, sure, the Drake equation is pretty subjective and the underlying expectations of some of the SETI folks are pretty off (life must be out there because, gee, it evolved here and must have evolved somewhere else too). However, the approach of searching for and setting up parameters to identify intelligent activity is valid. Second, it seems strange to me that many (some?) ID advocates tend to approach the issue as though there aren't other inhabited planets out there, which is really a philosophical position, not a scientific one. Yes, it is possible that we can't detect them, given the vast distances, short timeframes and puny instruments at our disposal, and so one could argue that it is a waste of time. But I don't think it is correct to assume that there aren't lots of other inhabited planets in the galaxy/universe? Eric Anderson
What’s SETI doing these days? Here's one former SETI employee who was not lucky enough to make the 'downsizing'; http://t2.ftcdn.net/jpg/00/21/12/35/400_F_21123516_ZyLWJ6L0k5wr5uYsgHVaF66Y6vSGdY12.jpg bornagain77

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