High Strangeness: Searching For Aliens

Friday, January 6, 2012

Searching For Aliens

At a New Year's Eve party this past New Year's Eve, I was talking to my friend Kxxxxxx about the new telescope my wife had gotten me for Christmas, and I discovered that Kxxxxxx's an astronomy buff, too. This seems to happen a lot when I talk about my telescope, so I plan to talk about it every chance I get. Anyway, I mentioned to Kxxxxxx that I take part in SETI@home, a very cool project that uses about 1.2 million personal computers just like mine all around the world to help analyze radio signals from space, and she said she wanted to take part.

SETI happens to stand for "Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence," a long-running project that sends radio messages out into space while also listening for signals from space. The idea is that sooner or later our signals may reach an extraterrestrial intelligence, and/or, we will detect the signs of an extraterrestrial intelligence in the signals we are monitoring. Trouble is, there is so much data to analyze that it would take decades for even the most massive supercomputer to sift through the radio waves we've been receiving. That's where SETI@home comes in. By spreading the data out among those 1.2 million plus home computers, SETI@home creates a virtual megacomputer that can analyze immense amounts of data in relatively little time. As an extra bonus, the program acts as a screensaver while it's analyzing data. It's free, it's fun, and if you're the lucky geek whose computer discovers the next Wow! signal, you could be world famous! I hope it's me and not Kxxxxxx, but if it is Kxxxxxx I will feign sincere happiness for her, and trust that she will mention me in her interviews.

As so often happens in UFO world, no sooner had I decided to blog about this topic this morning than I came across a related news item. Coincidence? I think not. There is a team of scientists at Arizona State University who want to start a similar crowdsourcing project to look for signs of artificial structures on the surface of the moon. Don't you love how even the kookiest idea can sound somewhat reasonable when it comes from University scientists?

"In this paper we take as a case study one particular new and rapidly-expanding database: the photographic mapping of the Moon's surface by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to 0.5 m resolution," the abstract reads. "Although there is only a tiny probability that alien technology would have left traces on the moon in the form of an artifact or surface modification of lunar features, this location has the virtue of being close, and of preserving traces for an immense duration."

Okay, so it's a "tiny probability" that aliens left anything behind on the moon for us to find. When has that ever stopped a UFO researcher? If every one of the 1.2 million people who are running SETI@home on their computers took responsibility for analyzing just one photo of the moon's surface taken by the LRO, I bet we could find something fast.

What might we find? Something like this?

Of course that is the famous "Face on Mars," and I'm not suggesting that we would find an actual face on the moon. In fact, I hope we don't find a face. People have been squabbling over the authenticity of this image for 40 years. If I was an alien and I wanted to leave something behind on the moon, I would not it want it to cause 40 years of fighting. That's terrible!

Anyway, back to the topic. There is a website for the ASU project, but it is, frankly, a disappointment. First of all, you professors, you need to think of a catchier name for the project than "Searching for alien artifacts on the moon." What kind of an acronym is SFAAOTM? Second of all, professors, don't put up a button that reads "Join the Search" if it doesn't actually take you anywhere.

Still, I like the idea of SFAAOTM and I will attempt to "Join the Search" if it ever becomes possible. But I am not going to tell Kxxxxxx about it.

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