I am an avid science fiction reader. One of my favorite books is Contact whose author is Carl Sagan. I picked up the book under the impression that it will fill my mind with fantastic and futuristic gadgets. I thought he would speak in detail about the machines, the journey and the beauty of outer space. That just gives you a lot to imagine. But the book lived up to my expectations in a different way. The book tells me that science belongs to the whole world. When you discover something, it is your responsibility to share it with the world. When you share it with the world, do not expect them to take it the same way you do. It spoke to me about how a discovery in science affected different set of minds (the religious, media, politicians, business people, science geeks and the other types). The writing was smart and I felt that the ending was very brave. It is a book you must read. Although I can give you an in-depth personal opinion on the book, I’d like to focus on something else that this book introduced me to.
SETI, Search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The protagonist in the book becomes a part of the organization that solely concentrates on radio satellites scanning the sky for deliberate messages from extra-terrestrials (whom we lovingly call aliens) . This was truly spine chilling. A whole array of radio telescopes to search for aliens and hope that one day we’ll listen in on them was exhilarating! This would change the way we looked at our existence and I would finally get the chance to say “We are not alone” while walking down the corridors in my college. Several other parts of the story eventually blurred my interest in SETI.
As I continued reading more books, SETI came across again. This time the book was about how computers revolutionized phase changes (Phase change written by Douglas S. Robertson). He spoke about the role of computers in phase changes (which occur before paradigm shifts and can be measured). Invention of the telescope brought a change to the way we understood physics and astronomy. Similarly computers helped radio telescopes become more powerful. And this accounted for phase change. So eventually in the book he spoke about SETI too. The word made me jump since that’s when I learnt the organization existed in the world I lived.
SETI is a nonprofit organization incorporated in the year 1984. One of their financial supporters was Carl Sagan! Seti believes that by observing life on our planet, there is confidence that with the right environment and factors, life can develop and grow on other planets too. What makes it easier to find intelligence on other planets is the signature that their technology leaves. Just like how our information travels in space and over a period of time reaches other planets, we too might be probably able to listen in on one of their famous TV shows someday. It isn’t only about radio telescopes; they also implemented a pulse detection system to a 40 inch Nickel telescope. This is a sensitive instrument that detects a pattern in pulses of laser light from other stars. There are so many other interesting that they are involved in currently.
So while Seti is actively searching for extra-terrestrials, don’t you feel an urge to associate yourself with this? It is true that you can proudly say that, your laptop or computer helps with science projects like Seti, Rosetta and other institutes. All you have to do is donate 2 hours of your idle time per week. It is a downloadable software called BOINC. It is relatively easy to use. And you can also join teams, connect with them and get involved in projects. If you’re interested in certificates, they do provide you with them too. The thing about donating your idle pc time for BOINC is that you do not need to be a physics professor to help these amazing communities. You just need the interest. So, are you a part of SETI@home yet?
While your mind is still bustling with the gargantuan Universe and the advance in astronomy, I will speak about the National Virtual Observatory. If you are an amateur astronomer or you have even a little interest in astronomy, the US government has helped with providing the public with archives of data. Because telescope time is expensive and not available to everyone, this acts as a virtual observatory. So check it out when you have the time.
For today I’ll leave you here.
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