The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, has recently overcome the budget problems that forced it to shut down until last December. Now, scientists behind the array of radio telescopes in Northern California are turning to the public for help. New croudsourcing software can be downloaded at setilive.org and used by civilian-scientists who want to help SETI scientists fine-tune algorithms that search for patterns in noise recorded from space. In just two weeks, the public has analyzed over more than one million radio samples.
What’s the Big Idea?
While SETI once scanned random patches of the sky, the project now has a pointed objective thanks to NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, which has recently discovered thousands of planets relatively close to our solar system. SETI’s 42 antennae will now be turned to face those planets and humans will analyze the data received. As to the efficacy of human participation in the project, past experiments at the University of Washington involving a protein-folding video game demonstrated that human players outperformed algorithms built specifically to fold proteins.