"Open the pod bay doors HAL". I don't know if the HAL 9000 ran open source or not. But the search for extra terrestrial intelligence (SETI) is turning to open source for help to find any ETs out there.
For many years the SETI folks have allowed anyone who wanted to contribute computing horsepower to help scan the heavens for potential signals from aliens could do so by installing a special screen saver.
Alas after 25 years, using the custom algorithms the SETI folks developed, we have not found any evidence of ET intelligence. But as one person put it, all of the SETI listening over the years doesn't add up to taking an 8 ounce glass of water from Earth's oceans.
We need a better way of looking at this. Now Jill Tarter, the director of the SETI Institute says that they are going to take a different path. They are establishing setiQUEST.org. On the site they will put up all of the raw data they have gathered along with the search code they have developed.
The institute's vision according to Tarter is:
In the future, we hope that a global army of open-source code developers, students and other experts in digital signal processing, as well as citizen scientists willing to lend their intelligence to our exploration, will have access to the same technology and join our quest.
They are looking for people to come up with better ways to search through the data for patterns that would indicate intelligence. Right now those with DSP expertise are best suited to access the data, but the idea is to develop code that would let anyone sift through the data in search of ETs.
The actual software detection code will not be available until this summer though, if you are looking to help right away.
What a great use of open source in really contributing to a worthwhile endeavor!
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