Monday, August 29, 2011

SETI

"Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people." - Carl Sagan.

Earlier this year, SETI shut down 42 radio telescopes (the Allen Telescope Array). Funding for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence had dried up. That's not too surprising - with the recession, the housing crisis, unemployment... people are too busy worrying about how to pay the bills to spare a thought about little green men. And after all, there are no scientists in Congress. Our world leaders are trained laywers, accountants, and businemessmen - but not scientists*. Our society prioritizes oil and advertising and entertainment, but the exploration of the seeming cold, vast, emptiness of space has been left by the wayside.

Well, Jodie Foster has saved the day! She and other good samaritans raised enough money to bring the ATA back out of hibernation. In a note accompanying her donation to SETI, Foster explained "Just like Ellie Arroway, the ATA is 'good to go' and we need to return it to the task of searching newly discovered planetary worlds for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence [...] The Allen Telescope Array could turn science fiction into science fact, but only if it is actively searching the skies."

* I wish I had come up with that insightful observation but it was actually Neil deGrasse Tyson recently on Real Time with Bill Maher.

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