Unlike many of the SETI@home enthusiasts, I am not involved in computer science. I graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and practiced Neurological Surgery in New York for over thirty years, before retiring two years ago. I learned about SETI@home from the excellent article in the October, 1999 issue of Sky and Telescope, and immediately signed up. I have two computers running work units, one at 450 Mhz. and the other at 700 Mhz. Astronomy is one of my hobbies, and I was privileged to see the recent total solar eclipse from the deck of a cruise ship in the Mozambique Channel. The picture shows me behind a telescope projection of the partially eclipsed sun on the sign.
Thoughts about SETI and SETI@home
Much has been written about the search for evidence that there is life on other worlds. I think it would be foolish for mankind to ignore this possibility, and SETI is a wonderful way that ordinary people such as myself can participate in the search. I believe that life does exist elsewhere, because conditions that lead to the development of chemistry that produces life must exist somewhere, considering the enormous number of stars in the universe. Unless some intelligent civilization can transmit or receive, we will probably never detect life outside the solar system. History shows that scientific developments which seemed impossible to past generations have become realities, so it isn't possible to rule out travel to other stars, even though current theory says that the time involved would be too prohibitive to make it practical. For this reason, I think that transmitting our location to other stars would not be dangerous. If such travel is possible, then the other civilizations probably already know about us from previous unintentional transmissions. If it isn't possible, then SETI would be the only way to learn about the existence and knowledge of another civilization. To be honest, I doubt that we will be able to detect alien civilizations with current technology, but it is certainly fun to try. Increasing the area of sky that is being surveyed would certainly be a first step towards increasing the probability of detecting a signal.