Even though it is naive and has caused me to be taken advantage of numerous times in my life, I have always looked for and believed in the natural goodness of my fellow humans. I believe that millions of us live quiet lives of honesty. I believe that what will matter in the end will not be your accomplishments, but how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what. Francois De La Rochefoucald said, “ It is more shameful to distrust one’s friends than to be deceived by them.” Ernest Poole in his great book “His Family” published in 1918 wrote, “ Mankind’s growth has been one-sided. Its strength was growing at a speed breathless and astounding, but its vision and its poise, its sense of human justice, of kindliness and tolerance and of generous brotherly love, these had been neglected and were being left behind.”
Almost everyone is interested in the idea of intelligent life in the universe outside of our planet. It is difficult to stand in the desert at night, or on a ship outside of the influence of the incident light from land, look at the visible portion of just our own galaxy and not wonder about other life forms on other worlds. SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) is an organization whose purpose is to detect intelligent life outside Earth by searching for possible evidence of radio transmissions from extraterrestrial intelligence using the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. The telescope is the largest single-aperture telescope ever built (305 meters approximately 3 football fields) and was featured in 2 films, the James Bond movie “Golden Eye” and “Contact”.
It is the largest curved focusing dish on Earth, and is used by SETI to monitor three kinds of signals: Rises and falls in transmission power which would happen when the telescope beam passed over a radio source, three power spikes in a row called a triplet, and pulsing signals that represent a narrowband digital transmission. These signals must be processed to accommodate the distances across the universe between galaxies, which is always changing, so the distance between planets is variable. In addition, the signal will vary depending on whether a planet is moving towards Earth or away from it. This is the well-known Doppler effect that causes the siren from a police car to sound one way when it is approaching and then a different pitch when it passes us by. SETI software checks every signal received by taking each individual frequency and analyzing it as if it were not moving relative to Earth.
The SETI program gained fame on August 15, 1977 when a project volunteer, witnessed a startlingly strong signal received by the telescope. He quickly circled the indication on a printout and scribbled the phrase “Wow!” in the margin. This signal, dubbed the Wow! signal, is considered by some to be the most likely candidate from an artificial, extraterrestrial source ever discovered, but it has not been detected again in several additional searches. So what does this have to do with the lessons in my first paragraph?? Well because of the immense amount of dat a that must be processed by SETI uses distributed computing a method which links computers through the internet so that calculations can be shared with millions of computers simultaneously and later reassembled into a solution.