Ask Dr. SETI ®
Ever since mankind first used intellect to distinguish itself from the rest of the animal world, a fundamental and profound distinction became evident --- we do not seek simply for survival, we seek to understand.
Intellectual curiosity is part of what separates man from beast. And scientific endeavor has always been driven less by need than by desire. We desire knowledge not for what we can do with that knowledge, but for the sake of the knowledge itself.
Modern scientific research has until recently followed the same principle --- ask the questions, find then answers, then figure out how to apply that knowledge. But today, more and more scientific research is being dictated by a pre-determined end, an application in search of a question.
Scientific research isn't about application, but discovery. The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is mankind's search to know what, or who, is out there. Because it is contrary to our nature to not try and discover if there is intelligent life beyond our own world.
The SETI League was established in 1994 to continue the scientific research formerly conducted by NASA. When funding for NASA's SETI research was cut, it was left up to a handful of visionary pioneering scientists to privatize the search for intelligent life in the universe.
The SETI League is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit scientific research and education organization. Universal in its scope, it is international in its composition, with more than a thousand volunteers in five dozen countries participating in the organization's activities.
Project Argus is a prime example of the type of work The SETI League is involved in. Project Argus is an effort to deploy and coordinate roughly 5,000 small radio telescopes around the world, in an all-sky survey searching for microwave signals which might possibly be of intelligent extra-terrestrial origin. When fully operational, Project Argus will provide the first ever continuous monitoring of the entire sky, in all directions in real time.
SETI League members have developed the necessary hardware, software, protocols and procedures for distribution worldwide. Traditional research grade telescopes, of the type used by NASA, can view only a small fraction of the sky at a given time, typically on the order of one part in a million. To achieve the goal of continuous all-sky coverage would require one million telescopes, properly located and aimed. The cost for such an enterprise would exceed the Gross Planetary Product.
Project Argus has taken an innovative approach to the problem. By employing much smaller, relatively inexpensive amateur radio telescopes, built and operated by SETI League members at their own expense, we will be able to achieve an all-sky view for an infinitesimally smaller expenditure.
Only 5,000 of these smaller instruments, properly coordinated, are necessary to see in all directions at once. The equipment, though modest, is capable of detecting microwave radiation from sources out to a distance of several hundred light years.
This is an example of the innovative volunteer projects that members of The SETI League are engaged in. And while the relative cost of these types of projects are low, there are hard costs nonetheless.
To continue this research and expand SETI League activities, the organization needs to raise $600,000 over the next three years. Membership dues, gifts and contributions will certainly help, but it is necessary to expand funding sources beyond current levels and current sources.
The SETI League is seeking investments of $50,000 from foundations, corporations and individuals, those who are committed to scientific research and radio astronomy.
We welcome the opportunity to present our annual report and a full proposal for funding. And while spin-off technologies and applications are an inevitable result of scientific exploration and discovery, it is the search that inspires us, that causes us to lift our eyes to the heavens and wonder.
entire website copyright © The SETI League, Inc.
this page last updated 6 December 2003
Top of Page