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Old 22nd Oct 2012, 20:38   #1
mikemaher205
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SETI@home

Greetings,

When I first started reading Custom PC magazine and bit-tech.net, I discovered very quickly Folding@home, which I now partake in and enjoy (bizarrely). When I first began it, I posted a picture of the client running on my Facebook to show it off, and a friend commented on it about a similar project regarding space...

I have done a bit of research into it and discovered what I believe he was on about, SETI@home, or the "Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence".

I'm curious mainly as to why Folding@home was picked as the one to do over this... I appreciate fully that F@h is all about medical research which is a hugely beneficial contribution by all who participate, but in a world of games where we often travel to other worlds and times, how come space study never grabbed the attention?

Again, just like to enforce I am not dis respecting Folding@home, I will still do it and love it, but just curious...
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Old 22nd Oct 2012, 20:53   #2
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Because TBH even if we found little green men that won't cure cancer, or dengue, or all the other things that F@H and WCG (another related project) can do here and now. There is no tangible benefit except that we know, which is a benefit to plenty but coming from a terminally ill man I'd far rather you kept the research on medicine.
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Old 23rd Oct 2012, 07:32   #3
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Tough call. Would the knowledge of intelligent alien life cause a fundamental change in perspective that would cause us humans to finally get our shizzle together and stop waging wars and ruining the planet over petty greed and insecurities?

Doubt it, somehow. After all we've experienced many scientific breakthroughs that expanded our understanding of the universe and our place in it, and it hasn't changed a thing. People are as good and bad as they've always been. We are capable of some spectacularly idiotic denial or avoidance in the face of overwhelming evidence. We are (with a few exceptions) small minded beings. If there are aliens out there seeking First Contact, we are not ready. Perhaps in another few millennia.

Whereas F@H can produce benefits that will improve our chances of getting there. If we are going to gaze up into the sky, looking for big rocks heading our way may be another priority.

This is not to say that I don't think SETI@home is worth it, but on balance F@H has the edge. You can also hedge your investments and use Rosetta, which is an umbrella plug-in that takes turns running different programs including SETI and a folding program.
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Old 23rd Oct 2012, 08:35   #4
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Personally I think it's down to fashion. SETI@Home was a big thing in the late 90's early 00's when there was a higher interest in UFO's and aliens. Folding at home has overtaken it now. I used to run SETI@Home on the open access PC's at work but we had to stop it when energy conservation and cutting power costs became a concern. It would be a far easier sell to convince them that looking for a cure for cancer is worth the energy costs.
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Old 23rd Oct 2012, 09:37   #5
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I run SETI@home on my server...
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Old 23rd Oct 2012, 12:39   #6
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Thanks for the responses, I did assume the reasons where mainly that medical purposes where the top thoughts, just wanted to investigate that it wasn't down to running the application or something...

I will continue to run FAH as long as I have a multi-core PC... Kind of feels like investing in my future health so I will be behind it for as long as I can, and still trying to push it to more people.
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Old 23rd Oct 2012, 20:01   #7
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Also, don't take my statement as a complete condemnation of the search for extraterrestrial life. I've no wish to stop scientific progress, but I want a treatment found for my condition, too. I know which is more likely to yield that.
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Old 13th Nov 2012, 07:42   #8
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Hmmm....

No, it won't cure cancer, or any other number of diseases that blight our species. No, it won't make our lives better in any directly measurable way. However... it's about exploration and reaching out. This is something that has made our species what it is: Asking questions... what's over that next hill, can I reach the top of that mountain, and can I fly like a bird?

Discovering intelligent life "out there" will in my opinion garner a massive interest in science and actually going out there to somehow meet this intelligent life. As a spin off from that, immeasurable leaps in scientific achievement will take place.

Wonderlust, discover and the pioneering spirit have been instrumental in the development of our species, and sometimes the pragmatic attitude that judges endeavours solely upon their economic or immediate gains is both short sighted and in the long term, stifling for our progression.
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Old 13th Nov 2012, 09:01   #9
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I've thought about that: what would be the impact on humanity if we actually had hard evidence that there was intelligent life out there somewhere. In the end I realised that it would change nothing.

For starters, many people believe already that there is intelligent, superior life out there, whether it is a deity or UFO-style aliens, on which they project their own expectations. It does not seem to make them behave appreciatively differently from other folk. Then there are those who staunchly deny that we've ever been to the moon, despite pretty hard evidence that we have. It doesn't fit in their worldview so it just didn't happen. Similarly, some people will simply not believe any proof of alien life that scientists may produce.

Intelligent alien life might be news of about a week. The sceptics will scoff, the believers will dust off their X-Files DVD's in the smug knowledge that they were right all along, while wearing tinfoil hats to amplify the telepathic messages of welcome they transmit to our new overlords. Politicians will jump on the "important statement" bandwagon and reduce this historical moment to the level of trivial banality as politicians always do. There may be an upsurge in Sci-Fi toys and books about UFO's for a while.

There may be a few genuinely soulful moments: Patrick Moore crying on TV (if he's still alive at that time), Brian Cox singlehandedly inspiring a whole generation of teenagers to become scientists, a memorial to Carl Sagan and Gene Roddenberry reminding us why this **** actually matters to us. But within a month another car bomb will blow in the Middle East and it's business as usual.
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Old 13th Nov 2012, 10:17   #10
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Even if FAH resulted in a cure for a specific cancer or disease I doubt the research would create mass market cheap medicine.

We as the masses get overlooked in a big way.
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Old 13th Nov 2012, 22:32   #11
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CYNICISM
It must be hard work being so negative. Take a break... have a Kit-Kat
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Old 13th Nov 2012, 23:10   #12
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Consider the evidence. What major cultural, technological, scientific or philosophical discovery/insight caused a fundamental shift in the worldview and behaviour of humanity?

The discovery that we are not at the centre of the universe? Nope.
The more enlightened philosophies and religions? Nope.
The discovery of natural selection, the Big Bang and the Higgs particle? Nope.
Other scientific breakthroughs in our understanding of the universe and our place in it? No.
Two world wars, the threat of total nuclear destruction and multiple genocides? No.
Medicine pushing back the frontier of death? No.

Seriously, what big thing: discovery, invention, event, insight has happened in the history of humankind that has fundamentally changed how we think, feel and behave?

That's right. We were cavemen before, now we're cavemen with smartphones. The discovery of alien life will change nothing, because it is too big a thing for our tiny minds to understand the meaning of. It's like we are an ants nest on an uninhabited island suddenly being confronted with a book washed onto the beach. We don't know what it is. We don't know what it means. We develop our own stories around it, but by and large we will carry on doing our daily anty things, because in the end we are ants, and books are objects beyond the frame of reference and concerns of our little anty lives.
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Old 14th Nov 2012, 08:03   #13
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I hope I never have to visit you for any kind of therapy... I'll end up slitting my wrists. LOL


Fair enough... I'll go sit in my cave and stop wondering about the universe, as it's so ultimately pointless.


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Old 14th Nov 2012, 10:14   #14
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Exaggerate much? I'm sure you can get your head around intelligent alien life. Not only can you make the paradigm shift in your worldview; you already have. The idea fits your worldview perfectly. It does mine. Nor am I saying that it is not an important or worthy question.

Most people in the world however can't entertain the notion, and frankly have more immediate survival concerns on their minds. What is the world's literacy rate? What is the world's poverty rate? How are fundamentalist religions doing at the moment? Any connection between those factors? If we have people killing each other over religious, cultural and ethnic differences despite what we currently know about evolution, the vastness of the universe and our human ancestry, how do you think that being told there is alien life out there will make any difference?

Consider those who believe we are already visited by aliens. What do they imagine? Spiritually enlightened beings with Godlike power and wisdom, proselitising peace and kindness. Inscrutable slitty-eyed little grey men abducting us and performing invasive examinations and experiments on us. Bug-eyed monsters invading our planet and eating us. Archetypal gods and demons; angels and monsters. Basically The same old human fears and desires poured in a Sci-Fi jacket.

Cultures and societies have to be ready for understanding and accepting certain ideas, as Gallileo and Darwin found out the hard way. The wrong idea at the wrong time in history can get you ridiculed (Semmelweis) at best or threatened with excommunication, torture and execution (Gallileo) at worst. Fact is: we are not ready for the idea of First Contact. We are evolving into more civilised beings, but at a very slow rate and we still have far to go. It is not until we get beyond fundamentalist and tribal thinking that we can even entertain the possibility of relating to alien life.
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Old 14th Nov 2012, 20:40   #15
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But there's no escaping the fact that all the things you point out as being more pressing concerns (and they are) have always been there, and will be for the foreseeable future. So if you propose we wait until we solve all those first, and furthermore that's how it should be, and always have been, we wouldn't have made the progress we have today. No, its not solved world poverty, cured diseases or solved world literacy problems, but would the world be no better for all the advances we've made as a result of people investing money in the "What if..." premise of all science?

No one's suggesting first contact, and discovering that there is intelligent life out there wouldn't mean we can just go and meet these people(?), but simply knowing that we are not alone would possibly, and in my opinion, probably CAUSE a paradigm shift in how we think. It may make us grow up. It may not of course, but that's the leap of faith we have always taken in the name of science, and despite the negatives a cynic may throw into the mix, there's no denying our lives have been enriched as a result of such wild flights of fancy.
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Old 14th Nov 2012, 21:21   #16
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No, I'm saying that history (and psychology) shows that society has to have evolved to a certain level to be able to understand and accept certain ideas. And right now most of the world is not there yet, and cannot be forced to get there.

Let's take an easy one: equality of men and women. How is the world at large getting on with that idea? How about freedom of religion? Gay marriage? Seriously, we have fundamentalist Muslims waging a whole friggin' ideological war with the rest of the world right now on just such issues. We have whole countries where women have no rights and being gay is punishable by imprisonment or death. And you think that those people care to wrap their heads around SETI? You think they'll stop beating their women and pause reloading their AK-47's to ponder the cosmic and spiritual implications of that one when they cannot even hack the idea of a girl going to school without flipping into a murderous rage? And this is not just a small band of extremist nutters; whole countries subscribe to this philosophy.

OK, a more enlightened society then: ours. One where schools refuse to teach evolution or at least consider creationism an "alternative scientific theory". One where gay marriage is an abomination. Yeah, we're ready.

There's naivité and then there's crazy.
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Old 14th Nov 2012, 21:43   #17
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However... there's still a compelling argument for pushing forward with things we may not be fully capable of getting to grips with.. because it's the right thing to do. Take sexual equality: We know it's the right thing to do, even though, as you point out, we're still not fully on-board with the idea. We don't sit back and say, "We're not quite ready for this yet - there are people who will resist it". We do it, and promote it, because it's the right thing to do.

Most enlightened people will push forward with evolutionary theories, even though there are still large portions of our society that are actually offended by the idea, and we do this because it's right, and it's a fact.

Not being as enlightened as we would like as a species is not reason enough to stop reaching for greater enlightenment.
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Old 14th Nov 2012, 22:13   #18
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No, I'm saying that history (and psychology) shows that society has to have evolved to a certain level to be able to understand and accept certain ideas. And right now most of the world is not there yet, and cannot be forced to get there.

There's naivité and then there's crazy.
Could you elaborate more on the psychology aspect?

Personally I'd argue that humans are just generally resistant to radical shifts of thinking. Look at the resistance to paradigm shifting ideas like Special Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. I can imagine there being certain types of idea we are more attached to but I think that's just overcomplicating a potentially much simpler explanation.

But my views on SETI:
A small little bit of fun of little importance, modern day equivalent of treasure hunting. Can't really fault anyone for trying, but it's not something I'd prioritise over something like F@H.
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Old 14th Nov 2012, 22:23   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo View Post
in the end we are ants, and books are objects beyond the frame of reference and concerns of our little anty lives.
But one day someone will drop an ice cream cone next to that book, and then what? Then what huh?

PARTY TIME!
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Old 14th Nov 2012, 22:27   #20
Nexxo
Whatever's Geek.
 
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Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Birmingham, UK
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pookeyhead View Post
However... there's still a compelling argument for pushing forward with things we may not be fully capable of getting to grips with.. because it's the right thing to do. Take sexual equality: We know it's the right thing to do, even though, as you point out, we're still not fully on-board with the idea. We don't sit back and say, "We're not quite ready for this yet - there are people who will resist it". We do it, and promote it, because it's the right thing to do.

Most enlightened people will push forward with evolutionary theories, even though there are still large portions of our society that are actually offended by the idea, and we do this because it's right, and it's a fact.

Not being as enlightened as we would like as a species is not reason enough to stop reaching for greater enlightenment.
I agree, but I don't think it will have the world consciousness-changing impact that you think it will have. As I said: it's an important and worthy question to pursue but we have to be realistic about the impact it would make.

Ellie: What happens now?

Dad: Now, you go home.

Ellie: Home? But I have so many questions, do we
get to come back?

Dad: This was just a first step. In time you’ll take
another.

Ellie: But other people need to see what I’ve seen,
they need to see…

Dad: This is the way it’s been done for billions
of years. Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.

--Contact
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