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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

question of the weekend: Was it a good idea to pull the plug on SETI?

Bad news for lovers of science fiction, science geeks, and those who hope we’re not alone in the universe: SETI — the official Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence — is no more. From the AP via Yahoo! News:

SAN FRANCISCO – In the mountains of Northern California, a field of radio dishes that look like giant dinner plates waited for years for the first call from intelligent life among the stars.

But they’re not listening anymore.

Cash-strapped governments, it seems, can no longer pay the interstellar phone bill.

Astronomers at the SETI Institute said a steep drop in state and federal funds has forced the shutdown of the Allen Telescope Array, a powerful tool in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, an effort scientists refer to as SETI.

“There’s plenty of cosmic real estate that looks promising,” Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the institute, said Tuesday. “We’ve lost the instrument that’s best for zeroing in on these better targets.”

Other telescopes are available for the search, but not to the degree that the SETI Institute engaged in the project. The institute is looking into alternative funding — you can donate at the org’s site — but isn’t this something that our national society should be investing in in the same way we fund, say, defense? Isn’t this something the global society should publicly fund? How can seeking the answer to a question that, should we find that answer, would profoundly impact us as a species be left to a matter of individual, private donations?

As bronxbee noted when she sent me this link:

you know how you always miss that call you were waiting for? now the whole world will too.

see, now would be the time for all good gamers to develop a game that would also search for such signals.

What do you think?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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