SETI researchers aren’t actually looking for the Extra Terrestrials themselves; they are hunting for evidence of their technology. They do this by scanning the skies for radio or light signals that would tell us that creatures of high enough intelligence to build a transmitter on a high-powered laser, exist out there. These experiments try to detect intelligence hundreds or thousands of light-years away, and because of that considerable distance any immediate concerns that the SETI quest might be dangerous can be ruled out.
The reasons for doing this, given that any signals discovered would be from life we will probably never meet:
We might learn something.
We would know we are not alone – of great philosophical importance
Knowing there is other intelligent life out there would also answer the question of how likely is it that a planet with life that would produce intelligent life.
SETI@HOME: The SETI home project has been running since May 1999. It was the first project to analyse a vast amount of data, in this case gathered by radio telescopes around the world, by cutting it into packets of data (work units) and sending to millions of idle computers connected to the Internet, where it is analysed by downloadable software that operates on your computer as a screensaver.
SETI@home screen saver at work
Once analyzed results are sent via the internet back to the project HQ in Berkeley and another work unit is down-loaded onto your PC. The screen saver looks for signals of various narrow bandwidths and pulse rates, and signals that might drift slowly up or down the dial. If it’s your PC that finds that signal, then you will be the first person in all history to prove the existence of intelligent beings.
To get involved in actually doing SETI research log on to http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/. Fill in your details and take a few moments to download Uni of California at Berkeley’s popular screen saver, SETI@home.
The next generation SETI@home is 500 times more powerful than anything anyone has done before. That means we are 500 times more likely to find ET than with the original SETI@home.