|Reaching out to others through various blogs and the web has saved my mental and physical health. Youtube (youtube.com/user/fechmb0749) is a good outlet for me. I unexpectedly became very seriously ill and then disabled and isolated in 2005. I have an active interest in cultures the world around as well as science, nature, current events, and history. I am very optimistic yet realistic. When I speak to and learn from people who are ill like me, I'm able to face my problems and deal with them with a much greater understanding and sense of perspective. Carepages.com too enables me to find people with similar interests and the desire to grow. My blog there, FrankLivingFully, lets me share many short essays with thoughts and ideas for living with life-changing chronic illnesses. Registration is free and it is a service designed to keep family and friends in contact with seriously ill loved ones. Several hundred major hospitals and clinics provide it to their patients. More than a place for sharing illness it is a place to get well and to cope well with serious illness. |
My curiosity is insatiable and I continue to pursue my hobbies of: astronomy, photography, history and current events, and writing to legislators and government officials about health care and political gridlock. More than anything, I want our country to come together again without divisive partisanship. These goals are most important to me: Excellent education available to all; Participative, citizen democracy with volunteer legislators who assume national public office for a fixed period of time (perhaps 6 to 8 years) and then return to their occupations or retire; and Creating a sense of social involvement which stems out of self-worth and loving concern for the common good.
|Thoughts about SETI and SETI@home|
|I've always been very interested in astronomy, spaceflight, NASA's many unmanned space probes, and the possibility of life, especially intelligent life, elsewhere in nearby star systems. Given the vast distances involved in travel even to nearby stars, I really believed that we might never find those other intelligent beings. I knew about SETI through my reading as a science and engineering librarian and thought there is a chance to find our cosmic relatives by searching radio signals systematically. I didn't know what a huge task this would be. A few years ago, I started to read about SETI @ Home, but my computers were not very powerful and I used the few I had for work, for my doctoral studies, and for my other writing. In 2009 we bought a powerful computer with an NVIDIA graphics processor. Then we got an iPad with some wonderful animated guides to the sky. We pointed our iPad to the sky and it actually showed us the objects that were located at the points we looked at. It has a kind of built in GPS system which used a tiny accelerometer. Wow! All in that small, thin tablet. Goose bumps rose on my arms and the hair stood on end as Mary and I thought of it all. Then, we went by the National Radio Observatory in Green Bank West Virginia one clear summer day. It was a huge concave data collection radio telescope. We found it in a very rural area in the midst of a radio and signal quiet zone so it could listen to the universe. |
I was getting more and more interested in exploring those signals and finding out what they might reveal. Then Kepler was launched and was soon discovering many solar systems in the small area just to the right and slightly above the Constellation Lyra. It was studying about 160,000 main sequence stars within a couple of thousand light years of Earth and finding thousands of planets by watching them transiting in front of those stars. The light decreases slightly from stars as each transit unfolds. We can actually see that in the graphs of the light intensity. Kepler follows all those stars and the light level coming from them all at once. Astronomers said that such an immense data collection task could not be done, but William Borucki, the lead scientist who dedicated 20 years of his life to perfecting the method, proved to them all that it could be done and showed them how. Some of the thousands of planet candidates found were even in the habitable zone where water existed in a liquid phase on the planet. I read that SETI would be turning some of its radio signal listening toward those solar systems and I jumped in. I learned too that there were all kinds of projects using the same distributed computing methodology to hunt for disease cures, to find new medications, to stop devastating tropical diseases, to hunt for new molecules, to help solve all kinds of problems that needed massive computing power. Those of us who volunteer in this way, by providing computing power, are adding dozens of virtual supercomputers to look intensively for solutions to the inner problems of human health and disease, and the answers to what do we find in the universe and how is it all organized. On Dec. 10th, 2011, I jumped in like millions of others to try to help. We are all examples of what the best of humanity is and can be. My wife, Mary, and I want to be part of the good news that we should really read a lot more about. Thank you to all of you who have provided the example for us. I want to share a little bit next about my greatest love and perhaps the greatest question any of us have. There's a large NASA project to answer this question. It's named the Kepler Project. The objective is to find planets in alien solar systems relatively close to us that might have the right conditions to generate and host life. The bigger question, of course is, Are we Alone out in the Universe or are their other thinking, self-reflective beings who have developed technology to help them live and explore the world(s) around them. Kepler is the first Very Large step to help us target our hunt and our exploration.
With the launch of and the continued operation of successful missions established year by year, space probes such as Kepler are giving us a way to target our hunt to planets and solar systems with potential life more and more precisely. I realize too that more and more powerful instruments such as the James Webb Space Telescope are being built. These advances in targeting our hunt will, I know, lead to us finding finding intelligent civilizations and life earlier than most of us would have dreamed.
I believe many of you will enjoy these two articles. The first is a Wikipedia article about the Kepler Project. It is well written with a great deal of depth and contains many additional resources to follow up on. Here's that link:
I also found this very informative article about what the Kepler Project means and who is involved. It is from the New York Times in 2011. Many of you will be able to read this online. Others may need to go to their public libraries or to an academic library nearby to find it. Your public library should also be able to get it for your through a service called interlibrary loan. Here's the link to the article:
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