The Outsider's Inside View post#015 - interesting and significant


log in

Advanced search

Message boards : SETI@home Staff Blog : The Outsider's Inside View post#015 - interesting and significant

Author Message
Profile KevinDouglasPhD
Project scientist
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 6 Feb 06
Posts: 107
Credit: 23,981
RAC: 0
Canada
Message 556989 - Posted: 30 Apr 2007, 21:41:46 UTC
Last modified: 30 Apr 2007, 21:42:12 UTC

I once organized a workshop for Canadian graduate students in astronomy on public outreach and education, and one of the guest speakers made the point that anything you read in the news can be classified as one of two things: interesting, or significant. He said that for astronomy, the only two things that will ever be classified in the significant category will be the discovery of extraterrestrial life, and the discovery of a doomsday asteroid. Fortunately, astronomy benefits greatly from being a science where many things discovered fall comfortably in the interesting category. The discovery of Gliese 581c is a good example of this.

Lots of other interesting/siginificant stuff in this morning's paper. The collapsed freeway near the Bay Bridge was quite a shocking thing to wake up to yesterday. I can almost see that part of the Maze from the building I work in. With binoculars I could probably see it quite well. I see Al Gore thinks Canada's new environment strategy is a fraud. It's sad to see Canada reneging on its commitment to the Kyoto accord. But what do you expect from the backward-thinking people currently in power? Speaking of which, I watched my first ever NASCAR race on Sunday (during commercials of the hockey game, of course), and I couldn't believe it when I saw people throwing stuff at the winner's car. I wonder what my 9-yr-old nephew (Grande Prairie Alberta's biggest Jeff Gordon fan) thinks of such behaviour. It certainly reinforces the notion that NASCAR fans are a bunch of rednecks.

This morning I jumped over the final hurdle in my quest to create some datacubes for the GALFA survey that conform to our proposed "final" data format. Our code was changing the bit type of our data, which was causing all sorts of problems. Fortunately the fix was very simple, so I'm now testing how long it takes to make these cubes on ewen with no stops. It looks like about 12 hours per 8x8 degree region of the sky. Not bad. I have 123 of my 144 SETHI datacubes made, so I'm getting ever closer to having that done too.

Is it only Monday?

Profile Pappa
Volunteer tester
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 9 Jan 00
Posts: 2562
Credit: 12,301,681
RAC: 0
United States
Message 557093 - Posted: 1 May 2007, 0:32:08 UTC

Kevin

I find it interesting, that the data that you are using is what is common to Seti (or Beta at least).. Interesting that you are doing the "things" with the data that has many uses for Astronomy... There is probably more "interesting things" that when all piled up could be "significant"...

Sorry, I have been "around" Seti for years... Many Interesting things have been are happening... Many promising things happening with Seti at UCB...

Regards
____________
Please consider a Donation to the Seti Project.

Profile ML1
Volunteer tester
Send message
Joined: 25 Nov 01
Posts: 8266
Credit: 4,071,245
RAC: 363
United Kingdom
Message 557374 - Posted: 1 May 2007, 12:51:11 UTC - in response to Message 557093.

I find it interesting, that the data that you are using is what is common to Seti (or Beta at least).. Interesting that you are doing the "things" with the data that has many uses for Astronomy... There is probably more "interesting things" that when all piled up could be "significant"...

I hope the NSF gets a good rocket up their "significant region" to agree some funding for all of this, and including Arecibo.

s@h must have amassed and continues to amass some "very significant" survey data that likely has many uses for years to come... Not only just for finding ET...

Keep up the good work!

Regards,
Martin

____________
See new freedom: Mageia4
Linux Voice See & try out your OS Freedom!
The Future is what We make IT (GPLv3)

Profile Dr. C.E.T.I.
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 29 Feb 00
Posts: 15993
Credit: 690,597
RAC: 10
United States
Message 557404 - Posted: 1 May 2007, 13:31:01 UTC

Thanks for the Post Kevin - great Workshop SIR!!!
____________
BOINC Wiki . . .

Science Status Page . . .

Profile KevinDouglasPhD
Project scientist
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 6 Feb 06
Posts: 107
Credit: 23,981
RAC: 0
Canada
Message 557646 - Posted: 1 May 2007, 21:27:50 UTC - in response to Message 557093.

Kevin

I find it interesting, that the data that you are using is what is common to Seti (or Beta at least).. Interesting that you are doing the "things" with the data that has many uses for Astronomy... There is probably more "interesting things" that when all piled up could be "significant"...


Very true, what with the HI data as well as Astropulse. My SETHI data is tied very closely to the old SETI@home data (line feed), whereas the GALFA project is indeed closely related to multibeam SETI@home. It's a good synergy.

Since thumper has run into severe problems, my SETHI crunching is stalled. I thought it would be a good time to make another all-sky map. Last night cube #124 finished, so I only have 20 more to go. Have a look at the missing pieces:



Eight cubes to go in the above image, seven left to go in the next one:



and five more over here:



The data quality is not as good as with GALFA, but still lots of interesting stuff to see (for the first time) in these cubes.

Profile ML1
Volunteer tester
Send message
Joined: 25 Nov 01
Posts: 8266
Credit: 4,071,245
RAC: 363
United Kingdom
Message 557660 - Posted: 1 May 2007, 21:44:30 UTC - in response to Message 557646.
Last modified: 1 May 2007, 21:44:54 UTC

The data quality is not as good as with GALFA, but still lots of interesting stuff to see (for the first time) in these cubes.

Any idea what the line noise is?

Rather than the noise being random, it looks almost as though some of the horizontal lines of pixels are shifted or specifically noisy...

Happy crunchin',
Martin

____________
See new freedom: Mageia4
Linux Voice See & try out your OS Freedom!
The Future is what We make IT (GPLv3)

Profile popandbob
Volunteer tester
Send message
Joined: 19 Mar 05
Posts: 535
Credit: 1,896,421
RAC: 0
Canada
Message 558433 - Posted: 3 May 2007, 1:33:08 UTC - in response to Message 556989.

I see Al Gore thinks Canada's new environment strategy is a fraud. It's sad to see Canada reneging on its commitment to the Kyoto accord. But what do you expect from the backward-thinking people currently in power?


You can thank the liberals for forcing this upon the conservatives. The children out east are being brainwashed with this liberal fantasy and of course the fact that the east hates the west doesn't help either... so for the conservatives to stay in power they needed to do something. Unfortunately this something may just be their downfall due to all this liberal propaganda and western hate.

~BoB

P.S. If the conservative party is backwards thinking I’d hate to hear what the liberals are........

____________


Do you Good Search for Seti@Home? http://www.goodsearch.com/?charityid=888957
Or Good Shop? http://www.goodshop.com/?charityid=888957

Profile KevinDouglasPhD
Project scientist
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 6 Feb 06
Posts: 107
Credit: 23,981
RAC: 0
Canada
Message 558938 - Posted: 4 May 2007, 2:19:57 UTC - in response to Message 558433.


P.S. If the conservative party is backwards thinking I’d hate to hear what the liberals are........


Navel-gazing borderline-corrupt corporate-minded hacks, maybe? Except John Manley - he was a good guy. Too bad good guys don't get far in politics.

All this downtime is slowing progress on SETHI, but GALFA continues to go ahead in high gear. This weekend I'm going to Yosemite National Park with my family, for my son's 10th birthday (which was today). I think the National Park system is the best thing the US has going for itself. In the last year I've visited something like 40 of its units across the country. With any luck I'll see a couple dozen more this summer.

Profile Dr. C.E.T.I.
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 29 Feb 00
Posts: 15993
Credit: 690,597
RAC: 10
United States
Message 559012 - Posted: 4 May 2007, 4:15:08 UTC

Enjoy Your Weekend Sir and a BIG HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Your Son . . .

____________
BOINC Wiki . . .

Science Status Page . . .

Profile Scary Capitalist
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 21 May 01
Posts: 7407
Credit: 74,697
RAC: 43
United States
Message 563397 - Posted: 9 May 2007, 3:13:52 UTC

hello..gang....:-)

Myryad
Send message
Joined: 26 Mar 07
Posts: 10
Credit: 4,013,846
RAC: 4,535
Australia
Message 564297 - Posted: 10 May 2007, 4:42:24 UTC

I disagree with the guest speaker's assertion of what is and isn't, and would and wouldn't be, "significant" in astronomical discoveries.

Discovering life would be no more significant than many other astronomical/cosmological discoveries. Probably the most likely sign of life will be spectrographic discovery of oxygen in the atmosphere of an Earth-sized planet in an Earth-like orbit around a Sun-like star. Now be honest, how will the media and public at large treat this in comparison with, say, Paris Hilton's latest escapade?

But even the discovery of intelligent life (the "I" in "SETI") still won't be any more significant than the Big Bang, other galaxies, black holes, etc etc (though obviously extremely interesting). The only way it would have the same magnitude of significance as a doomsday meteor is if we can learn more advanced technology from alien transmissions.

On the flip side, some truly significant (not just interesting) discoveries have been:
* Venus's atmosphere and surface hotter than Mercury's (significant because it shows what a runaway greenhouse effect could do);
* Any number of doomsday scenarios besides a killer asteroid;
* Red-shift and other relativistic effects (which need to be taken into account with modern technology, eg GPS);
* Dunno, any others?

Myryad
Send message
Joined: 26 Mar 07
Posts: 10
Credit: 4,013,846
RAC: 4,535
Australia
Message 564408 - Posted: 10 May 2007, 8:18:00 UTC

I just realised something that would be hugely significant: discovering that extraterrestrial life does NOT exist.

This could happen if/when instruments and techniques are sensitive enough to detect signals, effects, oxygen and other life by-products, etc to very large distances, and be able to determine all of their sources.

Profile KevinDouglasPhD
Project scientist
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 6 Feb 06
Posts: 107
Credit: 23,981
RAC: 0
Canada
Message 564599 - Posted: 10 May 2007, 15:55:26 UTC - in response to Message 564297.

I disagree with the guest speaker's assertion of what is and isn't, and would and wouldn't be, "significant" in astronomical discoveries.


Right, but keep in mind we're talking about things that would make it into the newspaper. Significant means it affects a large fraction of humanity, whereas interesting means it's something that people might talk about for a week or so. By that (perhaps narrow) definition, most astronomical discoveries fall squarely in the interesting category. Take the supernova that was reported this past week. It's a very significant key in understanding the evolution of very massive stars, but whom outside of a few dozen scientists is this going to affect profoundly?

Discovering life would be no more significant than many other astronomical/cosmological discoveries. Probably the most likely sign of life will be spectrographic discovery of oxygen in the atmosphere of an Earth-sized planet in an Earth-like orbit around a Sun-like star. Now be honest, how will the media and public at large treat this in comparison with, say, Paris Hilton's latest escapade?


The media will foul it up, like they do most things they don't understand. But the public at large would probably have a diverse range of reactions. One could write volumes on the impact such a discovery would have on most major religions.

But even the discovery of intelligent life (the "I" in "SETI") still won't be any more significant than the Big Bang, other galaxies, black holes, etc etc (though obviously extremely interesting). The only way it would have the same magnitude of significance as a doomsday meteor is if we can learn more advanced technology from alien transmissions.


I disagree. The other discoveries you mention (above and below) are highly significant in terms of scientific value, in understanding how the universe works. But a positive SETI result would transcend science and truly alter our understanding of our place in the universe.

On the flip side, some truly significant (not just interesting) discoveries have been:
* Venus's atmosphere and surface hotter than Mercury's (significant because it shows what a runaway greenhouse effect could do);
* Any number of doomsday scenarios besides a killer asteroid;
* Red-shift and other relativistic effects (which need to be taken into account with modern technology, eg GPS);
* Dunno, any others?

Profile Dr. C.E.T.I.
Avatar
Send message
Joined: 29 Feb 00
Posts: 15993
Credit: 690,597
RAC: 10
United States
Message 565128 - Posted: 11 May 2007, 14:32:18 UTC - in response to Message 564599.

I disagree with the guest speaker's assertion of what is and isn't, and would and wouldn't be, "significant" in astronomical discoveries.


Right, but keep in mind we're talking about things that would make it into the newspaper. Significant means it affects a large fraction of humanity, whereas interesting means it's something that people might talk about for a week or so. By that (perhaps narrow) definition, most astronomical discoveries fall squarely in the interesting category. Take the supernova that was reported this past week. It's a very significant key in understanding the evolution of very massive stars, but whom outside of a few dozen scientists is this going to affect profoundly?

Discovering life would be no more significant than many other astronomical/cosmological discoveries. Probably the most likely sign of life will be spectrographic discovery of oxygen in the atmosphere of an Earth-sized planet in an Earth-like orbit around a Sun-like star. Now be honest, how will the media and public at large treat this in comparison with, say, Paris Hilton's latest escapade?


The media will foul it up, like they do most things they don't understand. But the public at large would probably have a diverse range of reactions. One could write volumes on the impact such a discovery would have on most major religions.

But even the discovery of intelligent life (the "I" in "SETI") still won't be any more significant than the Big Bang, other galaxies, black holes, etc etc (though obviously extremely interesting). The only way it would have the same magnitude of significance as a doomsday meteor is if we can learn more advanced technology from alien transmissions.


I disagree. The other discoveries you mention (above and below) are highly significant in terms of scientific value, in understanding how the universe works. But a positive SETI result would transcend science and truly alter our understanding of our place in the universe.

On the flip side, some truly significant (not just interesting) discoveries have been:
* Venus's atmosphere and surface hotter than Mercury's (significant because it shows what a runaway greenhouse effect could do);
* Any number of doomsday scenarios besides a killer asteroid;
* Red-shift and other relativistic effects (which need to be taken into account with modern technology, eg GPS);
* Dunno, any others?



Thank You Kevin . . .


____________
BOINC Wiki . . .

Science Status Page . . .

Myryad
Send message
Joined: 26 Mar 07
Posts: 10
Credit: 4,013,846
RAC: 4,535
Australia
Message 565634 - Posted: 12 May 2007, 8:52:49 UTC

Yeah thanks for the discussion, it's certainly thought-provoking. I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about it, and I've changed my mind somewhat. A positive SETI result could and should be significant (not just interesting), because it should spur many, many more people to devote much more resources to examining the intelligent signals and gleaning as much information as possible about the culture they came from. And of course searches elsewhere will also be hugely stepped up because if one source is found, surely there will be others. So perhaps I was a little too quickly dismissive of humanity's reaction to the discovery of intelligent ET life.

I didn't say anything about religion in my earlier posts, and was wondering if someone would bring it up. I don't think any religions will be affected either way. Religion has been most impacted by rational, critical thought, the rejection of dogma, and improved human rights in general. Not scientific discoveries. If people can keep believing religions after the body-blow of evolution, I'm sure they'll take the discovery of alien intelligence well in stride.

Finally, I still think that the non-discovery of alien intelligent life will have a much more profound effect on the way we view our place in the universe than if we do discover intelligent signals. But this will only become important when we are convinced that our detection techniques are good enough to find anything that's out there, which I'm sure is still a long way away.

Message boards : SETI@home Staff Blog : The Outsider's Inside View post#015 - interesting and significant

Copyright © 2014 University of California