I have no clue if we are alone, but I think it’s very cool that there is an organization dedicated to finding out – and they are seeking the help of the open source community and citizen scientists in their attempts to discover alien life. Dr. Jill Tarter, Director for SETI Research at the SETI Institute was a keynote speaker at OSCON and made an impassioned plea for the many developers in the room to add their talents to the search for alien life as part of SETI Quest – an open project searching for cosmic life.
The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute is a non-profit organization with the mission to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe. They are using the latest technologies in their quest to discover alien life, something Dr. Tarter sees as a way for humans to gain a better perspective on their own lives. “We all have a common origin in stardust. Discovering extraterrestrial life would show that we are all the same. It would trivialize the difference between humans,” she said at OSCON.
Dr. Tarter was the recipient of a 2009 TED prize and with her wish, called on all Earthlings to continue their search for cosmic company. In the following TED Talk, Dr. Tarter shares some very cool stats on why she doesn’t think we are alone – such as the sun is only one of 400 billion stars – and she makes her pitch to humankind to join in SETI’s efforts.
So where does the global open source community come into Dr. Tarter’s quest? SETI plans to share all of its research data and satellite coding information openly on a cloud, allowing developers and researchers to analyze the information, enhance it, modify it, etc. For developers, they can play with the satellite programming codes to potentially find ways to make them more efficient and powerful. Why wouldn’t a developer want to take part in the SETI Quest? Think about the geeks points you would score!
So while we may not come face-to-face with an alien any time soon, and while whatever we find is likely to just be the technological footprint of an alien form from thousands of years ago, wouldn’t it be cool to know that we’re not alone?