Arecibo still threatened with closure.

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Eric KorpelaProject Donor
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Message 1794850 - Posted: 9 Jun 2016, 23:15:35 UTC

Recently the NSF announced its intent to start the process which could lead to the partial shutdown, mothballing, or complete disassebly of the Arecibo Observatory. As most of you know, this is not a new discussion in the scientific community. Several years ago we had asked you write letters to Congress in hopes of averting this fate.

A petition has been started on whitehouse.gov to ask the President to ensure it is funded. I'm pessimistic about the chances that it will change anything, as the President cannot change Congressional budget priorities, and only has limited ability to move money between NSF programs. However, bringing attention to the issues of science funding in this country cannot hurt.
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Message 1794968 - Posted: 10 Jun 2016, 6:25:09 UTC - in response to Message 1794850.  
Last modified: 10 Jun 2016, 6:26:02 UTC

I'm pessimistic about the chances that it will change anything, as the President cannot change Congressional budget priorities, and only has limited ability to move money between NSF programs. However, bringing attention to the issues of science funding in this country cannot hurt.

Actually, yes it can. A lot. Badly targeted futile gestures cause compassion fatigue, waste volunteer resources and bring discredit to the campaign.

That petition as it stands can be read as "some privileged science people want money for their toys / this is charity for Puerto Rico" and I can's see that pulling many heart strings nor purse strings.

Who are the actual decision-makers? When is their next decision point? What issues do they care about? Who has influence over them? Can they be swayed by any particular sections of the media? Is there anything in particular they are frightened of that can be used against them?

Who else could or should be targeted to be high-profile support? Celebrity physicists? Public-friendly science presenters? Children's education programme presenters? Science-based media channels? Technical columns authors in the mainstream press? Popular science authors?

Who else could or should be targeted for funding? Celebrity astronomers? Public-friendly science presenters? Space industry companies?

What other revenue streams could it provide? Other governments' funding? Why isn't the dish covered in advertising?

That petition as it stands says vaguely what could be lost but there is nothing in that petition for anyone to care about. What impact would its closure have on society? Science? Research? National pride? The local economy? How many jobs are affected? What sort of science project will be cancelled? What will be irretrievably lost? What opportunities may never be explored? What impact will its closure have on me, my children and my grandchildren?

How can social media be used? What images of the local economy suffering? What catchy phrases? What exciting images tagged #nomorelikethis? What other campaigns have worked and can be copied? How does CERN get funding for ever-larger particle colliders? How was the money approved to fix the Hubble Space Telescope? Can students or pupils be motivated by "You won't get to use this"? Can educators be motivated to speak out?

If you were to go to your bank manager to ask for a loan to fund the Aracibo telescope, what reasons would you give for the money? If you were selling shares in Arecibo, what marketing slogans could you use? Would an "Adopt an astronomy project" scheme work? (That last one is actually a damn good idea.)

Who benefits from the telescope? Why can't they pay?

I understand many USA citizens have a 'small government, low tax' philosophy. How can such-minded people be made to believe this funding is a worthwhile government investment?

Some people think this is tax money being spent pacifying UFO conspiracy theorists - how can you show it is not? Arecibo is so closely linked to SETI that this looks to some like tax money being used to very inefficiently look for little green men, money that could be spent on climate change, looking for habitable exoplanets, funding ISS research projects - why shouldn't it? Why would this be money well spent?

If there is a funding crisis, do some of those questions help?
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Message 1794973 - Posted: 10 Jun 2016, 7:01:32 UTC

Arecibo is a planetary radar capable of watching Near Earth Objects. USA has only another one at Goldstone. Russia may have a military antenna. The new Chinese FAST, with its 500 meters mirror could take Arecibos's role.
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Message 1795010 - Posted: 10 Jun 2016, 9:55:35 UTC
Last modified: 10 Jun 2016, 10:20:22 UTC

Now why isn't there enough money for the wealthiest nation to keep a world-class and potentially Earth-saving scientific facility open when it costs a tiny percentage of, say, CERN's Large Hadron Collider?







Ah, right... priorities.
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Message 1795040 - Posted: 10 Jun 2016, 13:11:30 UTC - in response to Message 1794850.  

Thank you! I signed the petition. I started number crunching for SETI in 2014. My only wish is that I could have started doing this in 1999, and I would have focused a lot more resources to this project.
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Message 1795041 - Posted: 10 Jun 2016, 13:13:05 UTC - in response to Message 1795010.  
Last modified: 10 Jun 2016, 13:16:26 UTC

I can only imagine what $582 billion dollars toward science would do..

If elected US President, that's exactly what I would do. SETI and CERN and all of the rest would have NO LACK OF FUNDING WHATSOEVER.

I approve this message.
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Message 1795102 - Posted: 10 Jun 2016, 16:07:13 UTC - in response to Message 1795010.  

Mr Kevvy this is a question many in this country have asked.
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Message 1795138 - Posted: 10 Jun 2016, 17:07:10 UTC

I'm Embarrassed Every Time I See Arecibo on TV show or Movie.

It Looks Like CRAP. I Don't Care if It Works Magnificently. It is A Dirty, Crappy Looking Machine.

Quit Wasting Tax Dollars for It.

Unfilled Pot-Holes have more interest to me than A Rusted, Dirty, Crappy Dish.

Yap to Da Yap Power.


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Message 1795185 - Posted: 10 Jun 2016, 18:42:30 UTC

NSF’s discussion on the continuing operation of the Arecibo Observatory.

I am not familiar with the budget allocations for NSF, but, I do know that a number of projects are will be competing for funds, the administrators will need to look at the potential cost benefit of each project. That said, there are new funding paths available. If there is a case to be made for the Arecibo Observatory can someone make that case publicly available? Once made perhaps, crowd funding or some other source could be identified. Or potentially another more cost effective source of data can be identified.
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Message 1795201 - Posted: 10 Jun 2016, 20:14:31 UTC - in response to Message 1794850.  


Recently the NSF announced its intent to start the process which could lead to the partial shutdown, mothballing, or complete disassebly of the Arecibo Observatory. As most of you know, this is not a new discussion in the scientific community. Several years ago we had asked you write letters to Congress in hopes of averting this fate.

A petition has been started on whitehouse.gov to ask the President to ensure it is funded. I'm pessimistic about the chances that it will change anything, as the President cannot change Congressional budget priorities, and only has limited ability to move money between NSF programs. However, bringing attention to the issues of science funding in this country cannot hurt.


Hello Eric,
As you’ve posted, this is hardly news, since it was discussed a few years back.
However, since most, if not all of the data that got gathered from Arecebio by SETI@home is only stored and preprocessed by clients (us) without ever beeing analysed as of now, i don’t see the emidiate need for interaction.

Mainly, the only thing we do and have been doing for years is to preprocess data without having it analysed, for ages.

So what’s the big deal anyway ? Piling up more data without analysing it since that’s what we’ve been doing since day one ?

Without having some sort of NITPCKR running 24/7, analysing data REALTIME (o r as close as we can get), it’s a waste of out time anyways.

Would’nt you agree ?

There’s no reason for an alien civilisation to keep broadcasting a signal for a bunch of years constantly, i’d rather assume „if“ they’d do radio at all it’ll be a short, massive burst.

So where does that leave us in the first place ?








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Eric KorpelaProject Donor
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Message 1795203 - Posted: 10 Jun 2016, 20:33:15 UTC - in response to Message 1795185.  

That's always the been the issue. Without an increase in total funding, keeping Arecibo operating will threaten other NSF projects. It was an congressional earmark to NRAO (many years ago) without an increase in NSF astronomy funding that initially resulted in the closure threats by diverting money away from NSF astronomy projects. Neither Executive Branch nor Legislative Branch diversions of money within NSF will solve the problem, and the two branches of government are unlikely to work together anytime soon, no matter how many signatures a petition gets.

Crowdfunding will undoubtedly be considered, but I think that it's highly unlikely that the observatory will be able to raise the $8-10M annually that's required. SETI@home has a budget 40 times smaller, many more people with a demonstrated interest in the project and we struggle to raise even 10% of our budget through crowdfunding.
@SETIEric

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Message 1795225 - Posted: 10 Jun 2016, 22:21:07 UTC - in response to Message 1795201.  



Without having some sort of NITPCKR running 24/7, analysing data REALTIME (o r as close as we can get), it’s a waste of out time anyways.

Would’nt you agree ?



We've been very bad at telling you what's up with the NTPCkR. Although it's not politically expedient to say so, Breakthrough has actually left SETI@home even more resource starved than it was before. People that were working primarily on SETI@home have transitioned to Breakthrough, and thus far, no funding from Breakthrough has been directed at SETI@home and we don't currently have the funding to replace them. We're hoping that will change, but have few options how to bring it about. In essence we're in the same place we've always been, barely getting by, but with even fewer people on the job.

That doesn't mean we've made no progress, though. It became apparent that our available hardware was insufficient for running the nitpicker. What has happened is that Bruce Allen (of Einstein@home) has allowed us to use some time on a supercomputer at the Albert Einstein Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover to run the nitpicker, which we've renamed Nebula because it's no longer "near real time". We've done some tests on 1% of the database, and estimate that a full run of the database will take about 5 days, and we plan to do such a run at least 4 times a year. If we overstay our welcome at AEI we'll probably have to search out cloud resources for the runs.

I'll try to get some more info out about that in the near future. The port is mostly complete, apart from tuning up the RFI rejection. Fingers crossed we'll have some candidate news by the end of the summer.
@SETIEric

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Message 1795244 - Posted: 11 Jun 2016, 0:03:58 UTC - in response to Message 1795225.  

People that were working primarily on SETI@home have transitioned to Breakthrough,


Obviously I'm confused, Eric. I thought SETI@home and Breakthrough were part of the same effort. I take it they're not. (?)
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Message 1795250 - Posted: 11 Jun 2016, 0:22:40 UTC - in response to Message 1795225.  
Last modified: 11 Jun 2016, 0:23:00 UTC

If we overstay our welcome at AEI we'll probably have to search out cloud resources for the runs.


Nice that it's finally out there... thanks! Good that we have something to direct all the inquiries to.

I know that one reason that a super/cloud computing facility was required is that the algorithms haven't been finalized and are still being improved (ie for RFI removal) so it needs a complete run every time.

Perhaps if and when that welcome is worn out, they will have been tuned enough for the long-term that the idea of an incremental NTPCkr that builds on the existing run results will be doable. Then NTPCkr will finally be near-time and local, and can possibly be built for under $10K.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
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Message 1795252 - Posted: 11 Jun 2016, 0:26:14 UTC - in response to Message 1795244.  

Obviously I'm confused, Eric. I thought SETI@home and Breakthrough were part of the same effort. I take it they're not. (?)


Just in case Dr. K. doesn't reply: They are allied but different projects. The crossover is that SETI@Home is doing the data processing for BL. That's the best of my understanding. This is worth a read.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
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Message 1795299 - Posted: 11 Jun 2016, 4:59:52 UTC - in response to Message 1795244.  

People that were working primarily on SETI@home have transitioned to Breakthrough,


Obviously I'm confused, Eric. I thought SETI@home and Breakthrough were part of the same effort. I take it they're not. (?)


It's confusing to a lot of people. Let's see if I can provide the top down view of Breakthrough Listen. Breakthrough Listen is funded by the Breakthrough Foundation, and consists of multiple parts... The largest portion of the funding is going to purchase telescope time on the Green Bank Telescope and the Parkes Telescope. The second largest portion (from my understanding. I don't have access to the budgets) is for purchasing and developing data recording and signal analysis hardware to analyze the data for those telescopes and make some subset of the data available to the public (and to SETI@home). A third portion goes to the salaries of the people developing that equipment and analysis code. None, at this point, goes to SETI@home.

Each of these portions are controlled by the foundation, and any additional expenditure needs to be proposed to the foundation and approved by them. This is a significant departure from the media portrayal, wherein the UC Berkeley SETI group is handed a check from $100M. Because Yuri Milner did make SETI@home a significant part of the Breakthrough Listen announcement, I still have hope that SETI@home will eventually be funded through Breakthrough. If it is not, we will continue to pursue other funding sources. If that doesn't work, we'll limp along until were run out.

Every time I'm sifting through the results returned by SETI@home, I'm amazed that there is no other SETI program on the planet that can do this. I recently calculated the value of the computing all of you do for us. 100,000 CPU-years and 11,000 GPU-years every month. On the Amazon cloud that would run you $42M per month (primarily in GPU time costs). That's half a billion dollars a year. That's why the Breakthrough Listen pipeline will never do the kind of analysis that SETI@home does. They can't afford to. Not even a billionaire could afford what you provide us for free.

And we can't seem to reliably find 0.1% of that amount to keep us running. It's been the longest running story of the project. Moores law may apply to CPUs and GPUs, but it doesn't apply to dollars.

This isn't a fundraising plea... yet. We're still planning that things will work out.
@SETIEric

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Message 1795300 - Posted: 11 Jun 2016, 5:00:50 UTC - in response to Message 1794850.  

We should not be begging for crumbs, we should, instead, be telling the politicians that any of them who do not support the construction of kilometre-sized dishes and optical eyes on the far side of the Moon will never be voted into office.
Basic scientific research always pays off in surprising, unexpected and highly profitable ways and a politician too dim to understand this is too dim to hold any public office.

I can't sign the petition as I'm not an American but I would not even were I allowed. This petition is too weak, it asks for far too little. We should be telling the politicians that they must give us the stars, not just a dim look at them from the bottom of a sea of fog and dust.
I saw sea-horses.
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Message 1795301 - Posted: 11 Jun 2016, 5:13:41 UTC - in response to Message 1795300.  

Hi Eric

I also cannot vote which shows a basic concept has been overlooked.

This project has international participation and has done since the days of SETI@Home Classic.

Why are you not seeking funding outside of the USA ?
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Message 1795308 - Posted: 11 Jun 2016, 6:52:01 UTC

I think it time SETI begins to use steerable arrays that can dwell and stare, Arecibo literally receives stripes in the sky of RF and as the world turns no given object is in view for any length of time.

In light of all the astronomical work being done on finding and categorizing Exoplanets SETI ought to engage in a campaign where these are our emphasis. Improving the odds of detection could be helped a lot by looking where the likelihood of inhabited planets might be. Greenbank as well as the new Chinese telescope are good resources for that focus.

They are likely closing Arecibo due to that and its older technology...
Never engage stupid people at their level, they then have the home court advantage.....
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Message 1795309 - Posted: 11 Jun 2016, 7:02:37 UTC - in response to Message 1795299.  

People that were working primarily on SETI@home have transitioned to Breakthrough,


Obviously I'm confused, Eric. I thought SETI@home and Breakthrough were part of the same effort. I take it they're not. (?)


It's confusing to a lot of people. Let's see if I can provide the top down view of Breakthrough Listen. Breakthrough Listen is funded by the Breakthrough Foundation, and consists of multiple parts... The largest portion of the funding is going to purchase telescope time on the Green Bank Telescope and the Parkes Telescope. The second largest portion (from my understanding. I don't have access to the budgets) is for purchasing and developing data recording and signal analysis hardware to analyze the data for those telescopes and make some subset of the data available to the public (and to SETI@home). A third portion goes to the salaries of the people developing that equipment and analysis code. None, at this point, goes to SETI@home.

Each of these portions are controlled by the foundation, and any additional expenditure needs to be proposed to the foundation and approved by them. This is a significant departure from the media portrayal, wherein the UC Berkeley SETI group is handed a check from $100M. Because Yuri Milner did make SETI@home a significant part of the Breakthrough Listen announcement, I still have hope that SETI@home will eventually be funded through Breakthrough. If it is not, we will continue to pursue other funding sources. If that doesn't work, we'll limp along until were run out.

Every time I'm sifting through the results returned by SETI@home, I'm amazed that there is no other SETI program on the planet that can do this. I recently calculated the value of the computing all of you do for us. 100,000 CPU-years and 11,000 GPU-years every month. On the Amazon cloud that would run you $42M per month (primarily in GPU time costs). That's half a billion dollars a year. That's why the Breakthrough Listen pipeline will never do the kind of analysis that SETI@home does. They can't afford to. Not even a billionaire could afford what you provide us for free.

And we can't seem to reliably find 0.1% of that amount to keep us running. It's been the longest running story of the project. Moores law may apply to CPUs and GPUs, but it doesn't apply to dollars.

This isn't a fundraising plea... yet. We're still planning that things will work out.

Eric, Cant you use us a selling point to Breakthrough listen?
You have us.
The dedicated crunchers just wanting to sort through the data for free. Give them the stats you showed us here and say, If we could upgrade our equipment and get some people to keep them running, This is what we can do, And were damn good at it.
Show the man you can save him money.
[/quote]

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