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Arecibo Observatory Facing Massive Budget Cuts

CowboyNeal posted more than 6 years ago | from the keeping-the-lights-lit dept.

Space 171

SirLurksAlot writes "Many supporters of the SETI@home project have recently received a message informing them of impending budget cuts for the Arecibo Observatory and asking them to show their support for the project by writing to Congress. The letter also informs supporters that there are currently two bills (Senate bill 2862 sponsored by Senator Hillary Clinton, and a similar House bill, H.R. 3737), which are intended to secure funding for the project. According to The Planetary Society, the current plan for the Arecibo Observatory involves cutting funding by more than 60% from $10.4 million to just $4 million by 2011."

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What? (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#24066967)

This is insane. We're throwing untold billions of dollars away on useless, inconsequential or outright stupid things every year, and we can't afford a few million for something like Aricebo? Are we nuts?

Re:What? (3, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#24066977)

I support funding Aricebo for use to search for NEO's, but I don't want my tax money going to SETI. I'm sorry, but as cool as it would be to either confirm the 'WOW' signal or find a signal from an ET, it shouldn't be a priority for using tax dollars.

Re:What? (2, Funny)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067013)

But how will we listen out for illegal aliens?

Re:What? (2, Insightful)

JebusIsLord (566856) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067257)

Are you saying that it isn't worthwhile, or that it should be done by the private sector? Because I just don't see how it could exist without government funding given there is no realistic potential for a monetary return on investment.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24067947)

Those aren't the only options. Many worthwhile projects are funded entirely by donations.

Re:What? (2, Insightful)

novakyu (636495) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067985)

Because I just don't see how it could exist without government funding given there is no realistic potential for a monetary return on investment.

Philanthropy. There are whole organizations pouring money into Africa. What's their expected return?

Re:What? (3, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068267)

you can't make nearly as much money/trade with people in complete poverty, you can with people who get out of that kind of poverty so it isn't even a matter of ethics/morals/philanthopy, it's one of long term economics.

Re:What? (1)

menace3society (768451) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068749)

For one thing, they get to not listen to annoying "Just a dollar a day" commercials on TV. They don't have to read depressing news stories about what's happening in other countries, or if they do (and this is probably the key) they get to feel good about themselves for doing something about it.

Re:What? (2, Insightful)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067325)

I agree. I read a while back that SETI went through their entire spectrum twice and hasn't found anything yet.

I've also read how over the years, despite the fact that we have begun broadcasting more signals over the years, the Earth has gotten "quieter" in that our signals are more focused and don't travel as far. Even if there was intelligent alien life out there, and even if they broadcast radio signals, it seems unlikely they'd broadcast them far enough for us to pick them up.

I don't want tax dollars going to SETI either.

Re:What? (5, Informative)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067379)

The seti receiver is separately and primarily privately funded and operates in a tag-a-long mode so the seti operations don't interfere with other more traditional operations at Arecebo. When there is an observation going on the seti receiver just takes in what-ever the main telescope is looking at slightly off axis; very rarely is the telescope pointed at an object for a specifically seti observation. Additionaly the kinds of signals that Seti finds interesting are generally signals that when shown to be naturaly caused give astronomers decades of research material!

I remember when Pulsars were designated LGMs for litlle Green Men.

Re:What? (2, Funny)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067519)

LGM1, LGM3 and LGM5 in fact. Why no 2 or 4? Well, they were all very odd signals...

Re:What? (1)

phreakincool (975248) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068839)

Stop that.

mod parent up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24067471)

It's not an entitlement to get funding. I don't want to fritter money away on SETI either.

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

TheOnlyJuztyn (813918) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067773)

To put this in perspective, this $6m cut will save the average US taxpayer about $0.024/year. Meanwhile, the Iraq War has cost the average taxpayer about $12,000 each over the last five years. With that money, you could fund Arecibo at its current level for more then 300,000 years.

Re:What? (-1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067953)

I really don't care if it's .00000001 cents per taxpayer per year. SETI shouldn't be funded by tax dollars. Spend the $6 mil on enhancing the search for NEOs that might just crash into our planet.

Profitability of the war in Iraq (3, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068863)

Meanwhile, the Iraq War has cost the average taxpayer about $12,000 each over the last five years.

If we assume a baseline 100M taxpayers, and an Iraq war cost of 100B a year, then, we're really talking only about $1000 a year on average. Notice, though, that 90% of the taxes in the USA are paid by people making over $250,000 a year, so really, we average stiffs are probably not even paying for the war at all.

Now, let's say that the Iraqis come through and increase their oil production to first 3m bbls/day, and then to 5m / bbls a day, and the benefits of this production increase result in additional 50 billion a year in profits to American companies, PLUS, a reduction in gasoline costs. We can calculate the ultimate profitability of the war based upon a reduction in the price of gasoline per person, knowing that in the USA the per capita consumption of gasoline is about 10 barrels per person per year. Source [statemaster.com] , and thus, about 30 barrels per taxpayer per year. So we say at 30 x 45 gets us about 1200 gallons of gas per year per taxpayer. We can thus calculate that if the war in Iraq is victorious, AND, nets a global price reduction of about a $1 / gallon, then, each taxpayer would come out ahead about $200 per year, even if the cost of continuing the war is born indefinitely. If, on the other hand, the USA wins the war and a stable semi-US-friendly government emerges and thus we can withdraw the troops, and Iraq still pumps enough to lower the price of gasoline by a $1 a gallon, then the war would basically pay for itself in about 5 years, and then after that, it would be pure profit for the USA. Hey, imperialism can be profitable, which is why countries do it!

Re:What? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24067017)

No some other country is needed to step up to the plate on this, our turn is over.
What will happen soon will make the great depression look like a stroll through the park on a breezy sunday.
The military is slowly capsizing the country the same is at it did for the USSR

LOL my captcha for this post is paranoia

Re:What? (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067157)

As an honest question, what useful things has Aricebo produced? Yes it is wonderful for tracking NEOs and providing quality information to astronomers, but what has the return been for ME on MY tax dollar? Maybe some breakthrough materials or perhaps some insights into physics that lead to new technologies?

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067171)

Yes it is wonderful for tracking NEOs and providing quality information to astronomers, but what has the return been for ME on MY tax dollar?

Anything that tracks NEOs gives you a return on your tax dollar in that it keeps you aware of any catastrophic threats.

Re:What? (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067901)

Anything that tracks NEOs gives you a return on your tax dollar in that it keeps you aware of any catastrophic threats.

Oh, like I want to know that I'm going to die next week. Really, knowing about some global catastrophic event in advance would probably just cause massive panic and unrest before we all die. What good is that? Where's the return?

Re:What? (1)

novakyu (636495) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068023)

Anything that tracks NEOs gives you a return on your tax dollar in that it keeps you aware of any catastrophic threats.

Just like this rock I hold in my hand is keeping bears away.

Tell me when we actually have the ability to destroy and or deflect NEOs---or, even better, when we have actually detected an NEO that is a real threat.

Re:What? (2, Insightful)

bschorr (1316501) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068953)

So are you suggesting that just because we have few practical options for dealing with a dangerous NEO that it's better that we not even know about them at all? Perhaps we could spend our research dollars on peril-sensitive sunglasses? :-) -B-

Re:What? (1)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067183)

As an honest question, what useful things has Aricebo produced? Yes it is wonderful for tracking NEOs and providing quality information to astronomers, but what has the return been for ME on MY tax dollar?

Ensuring that there's no imminent repeat of this [wikipedia.org] on a more populated area?

Re:What? (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067335)

Ensuring that there's no imminent repeat of this on a more populated area?

That implies that humanity has the ability to take some kind of preventative action if a collision is imminent. As far as I know, we do not.

Re:What? (3, Insightful)

amccaf1 (813772) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067431)

Ensuring that there's no imminent repeat of this on a more populated area?

That implies that humanity has the ability to take some kind of preventative action if a collision is imminent. As far as I know, we do not.

Well, we probably couldn't shoot down an incoming meteoroid, but given enough warning time, we could at least begin an evacuation of the impact zone. Additionally, knowing that a sudden, shock explosion was due to a natural occurrence rather than a terrorist or "rogue state" could help prevent WWII being touched off...

Re:What? (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067511)

Additionally, knowing that a sudden, shock explosion was due to a natural occurrence rather than a terrorist or "rogue state" could help prevent WWII being touched off...

1939 called. You're almost 70 years too late.

Re:What? (1)

amccaf1 (813772) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067543)

D'oh! As always, I blame the font... (Either that, or I accidentally declared WWI to be non-canon...)

Re:What? (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068683)

If you really study the History WW II was basically a re-escalation of WW I anyways

Re:What? (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067583)

Yup, exactly. The one to watch out for, however, is the increasing aggression of a Nazi run Germany leading to the annexation of Poland, which could very conceivably start WWIII.

Oh....hang on a second.... ;)

In all seriousness, and as a cynical way to get more funding, someone should point out that whilst it may not be possible to avoid a collision, you could very well change the point of impact given some warning. Imagine if Bush had the option - strike off the east coast of the US, or delay it for a few hours and hit Iran/China etc? Military application=big funding.

Re:What? (1)

novakyu (636495) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068063)

Yup, exactly. The one to watch out for, however, is the increasing aggression of a Nazi run Germany leading to the annexation of Poland, which could very conceivably start WWIII.

Er, that already happened. More than 4 years ago [idlewords.com] !

Re:What? (4, Interesting)

Scott Ransom (6419) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067281)

As an honest question, what useful things has Aricebo produced?

How about a Nobel prize? (Amongst a bunch of other excellent bits of radio astronomy, aeronomy, and planetary science).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PSR_B1913+16 [wikipedia.org]

Re:What? (0, Troll)

msauve (701917) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067935)

Well, a Nobel prize is useful for the cash it provides to the winner, but the question certainly meant what useful things has it produced for the world at large? Did knowledge of some light-years-distant binary solve world hunger, and no one was told about it?

It has produced massively distributed computing (4, Informative)

spineboy (22918) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067337)

Much of basic research does not always produce immediately tangible results. SETI + Aricebo have produced massive distributed computing which is widely used now by many EXTREMELY worthwhile projects (protein folding, cancer research, etc). This is a basic tool now, and I'd say that's pretty valuable and productive.

Just because it isn't directly dumping 200 MPG cars into your lap, or producing a magic fat dissolving drug, doesn't mean that it isn't helping you somehow.

Re:What? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24067593)

A biggie was the radar return of the distance to Venus, which instantly corrected our measurements of the Earth-Sun distance, which then instantly changed the size of the Universe.

You could just look at http://www.naic.edu/~nolan/radar/AUSAC.html [naic.edu] . Some big stuff there. Rotation rates of Mercury (which was in error) and Venus, for instance. Radar maps of the topography of Venus. All cheaply done. All this for twenty minutes in Iraq.

Re:What? (2, Interesting)

ROMRIX (912502) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067179)

Create an account on the SETI forum and get to know those guys that run the place. They do squat there for what they're paid. I wish I could take a vacation like those guys. They're biggest decision is "What country do you want to go spend a month at?" Shit I'd be playing WOW all day too! Get to know them before you wish them (mine and your) millions.

Re:What? (1)

Illbay (700081) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067577)

Every "special interest" (that's every single one of us, btw) says "we're spending untold dollars on X, Y and Z, which are CRAP! It is UNACCEPTABLE that MY pet project should be excluded!"

One man's crap is, of course, another's caviar. When people use the term "special interests," they mean "every interest but mine, which is legitimate."

If Congress had the balls - well, the Speaker is a woman, so choose your own euphemism - EVERYONE'S pet project would be trimmed, EVERYONE would walk away slightly pissed off, and we'd all be saving a HELL of a lot of money, enough to privately fund efforts and projects that are actually legitimate on the merits rather than the politics.

Of course, it's never gonna happen because "special interests" (you and me, remember?) would rather have government imprimatur and government money, than have to actually compete in the MARKETPLACE of ideas.

Someday of course, the swill-trough will run dry, and we're all gonna stand around looking at each other, wondering what the hell to do now.

Re:What? (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067693)

It's used for more than just SETI.

So your argument is... (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067867)

...that because we spend alot of money poorly, we should spend more money poorly?

I disagree - instead of writing Congress, those who want Aricibo funded should donate money directly, instead of trying to use the power of government to force everyone else to pay through taxes.

Re:What? (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067991)

How many minutes of the Iraq boondoggle, fuster cluck, invasion/occupation, meddling in the middle east once again would it cost to keep Aricebo running at the current, or higher, budget?

Re:What? (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068685)

Yeah, pork for nerds is far more moral than pork for anyone else. Screw the Constitution, nerds want their pork chops!

Time to move to the VLA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24066975)

Get your checkbook out, Mr. Hadden!

Don't fret... (1)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 6 years ago | (#24066991)

this is turning out as planned. remember the movie Contact? What will be will be.

Cycles or cents? (1)

Jerry Smith (806480) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067007)

What if all SETI@Home crunchers donate 1 dollar/Euro? Problem temporarily solved, isn't it?

Re:Cycles or cents? (1)

ROMRIX (912502) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067229)

Hell ya! Amazon could put up a Paypal link!

Re:Cycles or cents? (1)

Macrat (638047) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067847)

Donations better spent on this than Mega Presidential Campaigns.

Perspective (4, Interesting)

nicklott (533496) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067057)

To put this into perspective, $6m is about the cost of the seat in a single F-22.

Re:Perspective (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24067237)

As an honest question, what useful things has F-22 seat produced? Yes it is wonderful for tracking NEOs and providing quality information to the military, but what has the return been for ME on MY tax dollar? Maybe some breakthrough materials or perhaps some insights into physics that lead to new technologies?

Re:Perspective (1, Insightful)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067241)

Yeah, but the F-22 actually, like, does "stuff".

Well - kinda (4, Insightful)

spineboy (22918) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067357)

The F-22 does stuff TO people, Aricebo does stuff FOR people.

Re:Well - kinda (1)

karlwilson (1124799) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067383)

The F-22 does stuff TO bad guys FOR you.

Re:Well - kinda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24067563)

The F-22 does bad stuff FOR the government TO guys it doesn't like and their neighbours.

Re:Well - kinda (1)

s_p_oneil (795792) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067589)

In a perfect world perhaps. Right now the bad guys are telling the F-22 pilots who to do stuff TO. Trust me when I say they're not doing it FOR me.

Re:Well - kinda (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067785)

Seeing that the US wont sell the "real" version to any other country, the F22 will most likely kill innocents for bad, corrupt people.

Re:Well - kinda (1)

imipak (254310) | more than 6 years ago | (#24069033)

SURE it does. AMAZING intelligence y'all got these days, AMAZING. With those satellites I hear they can read the LICENSE PLATES of the car bombs the BAD GUYS are sitting in. That's why they always get intercepted before they blow some unfortunate working class kid's arms and legs off, or incinerate a few dozen civilians. (Boy I bet those incinerated civilians are just dying to tell Dubya how grateful they are to have been liberated in the name of WMD that weren't there and the 9/11 connection that never existed. 'Cos the INTELLIGENCE is NEVER wrong, ohhhh no, any anyone who says different is a whining liberal who hates America. And anyway, a few shreds of charred flesh tell no tales, you get me?

Re:Well - kinda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24067703)

The F-22 does stuff TO people...

...like pull them in high-G aerial maneuvers and super-cruise pursuit mode!

Re:Well - kinda (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067743)

What, exactly, does Arecibo (note spelling) DO for people? F-22s are there so that they won't have to be used, but I guess you think they DO "THINGS" to people.

Personally, I like the P-51 Mustang, those must be real cheap these days. You could probably get 20 for the price of one of those newfangled jets, plus it'd be much more cost effective for the coming slapdown of the American people by the military after everything goes haywire due to Global Warming or the latest panic.

Re:Well - kinda (1)

nicklott (533496) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068901)

If they're not going to be used why has the US spent $62 billion on them?

If think it's more likely you could get 200 P51s for the price of one f22. Interestingly, according to wikipedia, they originally cost $50k each to build, which is about $500k today (probably not far off their current price as antiques) so relatively speaking, state of the art in 1945 cost 1/300th of state of the art in 2008. They probably use a lot less fuel too, so when oil hits $300 a barrel they might be able to afford to fly them.

Re:Well - kinda (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068891)

The F-22 does stuff TO people, Aricebo does stuff FOR people.

Aricebo doesn't do anything for me at all. It's useless.

Re:Perspective (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067449)

or a couple of fancy public restrooms in some Congressman's district for a park any rarely uses.

Earmarks alone consume more science money than we can imagine. Look, the DOD will always be here, its a requirement to maintain our standard of living and be able to scare the pants of petty 3rd world dictators who think neighboring countries are new areas to invade or people of certain ethnic traits need to die.

The real crime in our government is earmarks, essentially buying their seats of power with our tax dollars. I was dumb enough to expect some change when the Democrats moved in on their campaign of Republican corruption but they are far more corrupt that those replaced. Hell they have tried to pass rules to hide earmarks or use fancy talk to hide the fact of what they were. I just wish there were some real viable 3rd parties but for every good idea many have they have too many crackpots to be taken seriously. This doesn't even count the problems the face with the press which is in bed with the Democrats and Republicans.

Worse, some of the people running for office are suggesting cuts in NASA! This is all about votes, NASA and weirdly named science groups don't garner votes like a new highway; conveniently named for your local Congressmen; library, swimming pool, or yeah, a glorified outhouse.

I would rather pay for those 6m seats in a F22 than in an outhouse.

Oh, yeah a bit of exaggeration but 200k for an outhouse does happen and its "justified" http://www.statesmanjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080601/NEWS/806010321/1001 [statesmanjournal.com]

219k for wool research? Happened.

Think the Congress will take action, oh yeah, they told us loud and clear http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/03/13/earmark.vote/ [cnn.com] and http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0608/11451.html [politico.com]

Want more ? http://earmarks.omb.gov/by-tracking/summary.html [omb.gov]

Sheesh people, they want you to bitch about the war and the military. It allows them to roll right on by under your nose while you have it up in the air in "righteous indignation". Keep buying it. Maybe someone will come along and promise change .... and you will buy that like we did in 2006

Re:Perspective (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067839)

Did you read the article you linked for the bathroom. They claimed the price was so high because they were building it to withstand vandals; it sounds like you'll need a jackhammer to damage anything. You can say that using the same toilets as prisoners is insulting, but too expensive? Won't it save money in the long term?

The funding also is coming from the city, not Congress. It wasn't an earmark at all.

Sheesh people, they want you to bitch about the war and the military. It allows them to roll right on by under your nose

According to your link, the Iraq war costs 5 times as much as all the earmarks in the US combined. And that's not even factoring in that some earmarks are good. So keep going on and on about earmarks, and let military contractors bleed the government dry.

Re:Perspective (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067585)

To put this into perspective, $6m is about the cost of the seat in a single F-22.

Or to put it another way, provide health care for 1,768 people

Many supporters of the SETI@home project have.... (2, Funny)

Nudo (1118587) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067069)

Seeing the phrases "SETI@home" and "receiving messages..." made me jump to some obvious conclusions...

Re:Many supporters of the SETI@home project have.. (1)

SirLurksAlot (1169039) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067147)

Haha, I suppose I could've phrased that better. I should've said SETI@home sends message of impending doom.......

.

.

.

.

for Arecibo Observatory budget.

Good! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24067093)

Good. Maybe soon, all the BOINC users wasting time searching for non-existent aliens will move on to something useful [worldcommunitygrid.org] !

Re:Good! (1)

Nudo (1118587) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067185)

http://boinc.berkeley.edu/projects.php [berkeley.edu] That's a list of other things you can do with BOINC and distributed computing.

Re:Good! (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067447)

yeah like helping the PharmaCo's create the next wonder-drug that nobody without insurance will be able to afford.

Re:Good! (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067597)

Good. Maybe soon, all the BOINC users wasting time searching for non-existent aliens will move on to something useful [worldcommunitygrid.org] !

World Community Grid is a boinc project [berkeley.edu] , no Seti@home no boinc, no boinc no World Community Grid.

waste@home (1, Interesting)

Adreno (1320303) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067113)

maybe those aliens just don't want to be found... perhaps a more prudent use of resources would be folding@home. You know, curing cancer instead of holding our head to the ground to listen for non-existent buffalo...

Re:waste@home (1)

amccaf1 (813772) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067461)

maybe those aliens just don't want to be found... perhaps a more prudent use of resources would be folding@home. You know, curing cancer instead of holding our head to the ground to listen for non-existent buffalo..

Bah, maybe that cancer just doesn't want to be cured...

Re:waste@home (1)

eclectic4 (665330) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067527)

But, how do you know the buffalo aren't there? They would have to exist before they could "not want to be found". But, if we don't even look, then...

Why did we spend a dime going to the moon? Mars? Why do we do anything that doesn't directly line our pockets with more money? Are we human beings?

I'm sorry, but just as the parent noted, the extraordinary amounts of money we spend on far less lucrative endeavors sure makes a few pennies a citizen for even the possibility of finding intelligent life elsewhere seem worth it.

Again, unless you can tell me the buffalo aren't there... no, we're not spending money trying to find flying pink elephants. We're trying to find something that is completely plausible, and would change the collective psyche of the entire human race. How could this be bad? Do you have a better method of searching? If so, that would also be welcome.

Thank you.

Re:waste@home (1)

Adreno (1320303) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067711)

I don't pretend to know that there are not aliens. In fact, I believe there are. The chances that out of trillions and trillions of planets at least one other race of sentient beings came into existence are likely pretty high in my opinion. However, you must take into account (1) their proximity to Earth, (2) their use of a communications device that we can detect with current technology, (3) their likelihood to spend energy on such broadcasts given resources, politics, and whatever else keeps those aliens busy, and (4) the likelihood that they directed their broadcast in such a manner that it would be aimed at Earth and come to us without any sort of interference/degradation rendering it mere nonsense. SETI is a shot in the dark, everyone can agree on that... but the room you're shooting in is of a size beyond comprehension, and you don't have the faintest where to aim. I support the observatory in its NEO search endeavour, but directing tax-payer money toward such a fruitless search as SETI is plain silly. There is absolutely no historic evidence that we will turn up anything.

Re:waste@home (1)

Adreno (1320303) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067749)

I'd also like to point out that the argument "we're already wasting money on X, why not Y?" is very poorly considered. I don't want to waste MORE money. Ever. Going to the moon, exploring the solar system, those can give us insight into geological processes that are taking place on Earth today. The possibility of spreading human settlement and industry across the nearby planets abounds. There are plenty of good reasons for our current space program that have nothing to do with SETI.

Re:waste@home (1)

novakyu (636495) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068107)

Why did we spend a dime going to the moon? Mars?

Politics and more politics.

With all that money NASA spent going to the moon, what practical benefit have we gained (that's related to actual landing on the moon, rather than, you know, the general research that goes on at NASA).

I suppose Mars is in the news now with all those stories of water being found. But, really, who cares? What practical benefit does that have for those of us who live on Earth?

Re:waste@home (1)

Lisandro (799651) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068605)

I suppose Mars is in the news now with all those stories of water being found. But, really, who cares? What practical benefit does that have for those of us who live on Earth?

Besides incresing our common knowledge of the universe we live in, or the new technologies [nasa.gov] developed by the space program? Saying "i don't care, i live on Earth" is like saying "why would i ever leave home? the fridge is stuffed."

Science brings knowledge. And knowledge is one of the most intangible assets human kind posseses, but perhaps the most important. Think of it as investing in your future.

Re:waste@home (1)

Lisandro (799651) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068511)

perhaps a more prudent use of resources would be folding@home. You know, curing cancer instead of holding our head to the ground to listen for non-existent buffalo...

Now - why can't we have both? Dissing the opportunity of discovering extraterrestrial life because "we're most probably alone" or whatever is retarded, specially considering the percentage of the US budget allocated to Arrecibo.

A better question is this. Why isn't your government funding protein folding research and Seti when both could be covered by the price of a couple cruise missiles? Let alone other sensibles areas like education and security...

From a Puertorrican perspective (0, Offtopic)

rafael_es_son (669255) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067163)

I think it's best if it's turned into a giant skateboarding bowl, the labs could host nightly LAN parties.

Re:From a Puertorrican perspective (0, Offtopic)

rafael_es_son (669255) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067175)

It would be even better if said skateboarders wielded glowsticks of some sort as well.

Here's an idea: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24067165)

Buy fewer bombs.

Morons.

Re:Here's an idea: (-1, Troll)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067341)

Buy fewer bombs.

Won't work. They'll say "we're saving money by buying fewer bombs."

Next fiscal year: "We're buying fewer bombs to save money, but since we're buying fewer of them, they need to be larger to do the same job. We need a few billion more."

Next fiscal year (2): "Those bigger bombs need a new delivery system, so we've ordered production of a new bomber. We need $200 billion more."

Next fiscal year (3): "We're going to make the bombs smaller to save money."

Next fiscal year (4): "Those smaller bombs need a new delivery system, so we've ordered production of a new bomber. We need $400 billion more."

Next fiscal year (5): "We're going to make the bombs do extra duty by making a version that fits on cruise missiles. This will save us billions from losses due to bombers getting shot out of the sky delivering them. $500 billion, please."

Next fiscal year (6): "We need a new type of submarine to deliver those modified cruise missles. $1 Trillion please."

Next fiscal year (7): "We're going to save money by combining submarines and bombers into a joint services vehicle - a bomber-submarine. This forward-looking high-tech plan will allow lots of economies, as one vehicle can be used by both the navy and the air force. $5. Trillion"

Next fiscal year (8): "After all the redesign work, we're happy to say the bomber-submarine is a success. Unfortunately, design modifications meant that there is no room to actually carry bombs, so the bomber-sub is being re-tasked as a stealth observation platform. We need to develop new delivery vehicles to actually deliver the bombs. This will be a steal, at only $3 Trillion"

Next fiscal year (9): "Consider this a military coup. You will be allowed to stay on as long as you help us maintain the peace. We need extra funds to hire the extra manpower to help crush the tax-payer revolts. Sign here."

Re:Here's an idea: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24068165)

wow, that post just kept boring and boring.

Re:Here's an idea: (1)

novakyu (636495) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068195)

Next fiscal year (9): "Consider this a military coup. You will be allowed to stay on as long as you help us maintain the peace. We need extra funds to hire the extra manpower to help crush the tax-payer revolts. Sign here."

The good thing about U.S. government (despite all its failings) is, a civilian (the President of the U.S.) is the commander in chief.

I honestly do not think a military coup (which would be ... some general *not* the commander in chief somehow getting enough support from his colleagues) is possible in the U.S.

I'll believe it when that happens, but I don't think it will in my lifetime.

Re:Here's an idea: (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068763)

The greatest thing about the US is that anybody can be president.

The worst thing about the US is that anybody can be president.

The two statements are not mutually exclusive. And by the way, you already had your coup d'etat. Bush wasn't elected. The electoral college Ohio votes were fraudulent, so it's already happened in your lifetime.

Running out of money, solution (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067191)

quick, claim you almost discovered the Higgs Boson!

Art Bell (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067193)

Have they found any aliens yet? If not, why keep paying? Oh yeah, searching for "Killer Asteroids".

completely off-topic here but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24067203)

have you guys seen http://www.sciscoop.com/ [sciscoop.com] ? are they just a complete knock-off of slashdot or are they affiliated somehow? there's gotta be some kind of copyright infringement or something about the format...

they've already found intelligence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24067269)

Scientists look out into space for any sort of information. If they found it they would call it a sign of intelligence.

Scientists find DNA information which constructs and governs all of the cells in our bodies. They call it an accident.

Jody Foster? (1)

karlwilson (1124799) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067393)

Where the hell is Jody Foster at a time like this?

Re:Jody Foster? (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067609)

No, you need Tom Cruise. Surely Scientologists would pay for SETI. It's the easiest way to contact a space DC-8.

DANG IT! (2, Funny)

Illbay (700081) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067477)

I read:

"Many supporters of the SETI@home project have recently received a message..."

And my heart leapt into my throat!

The rest of the article was REALLY a big let-down after that, let me tell you.

No profit (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067673)

Anything which doesn't make a profit will be purged. Its inevitable. We will end up being a society that churns out nothing but burgers and shit movies because those are the most profitable things.

And you, all of your, helped make it happen. Give yourselves a pat on the back.

Re:No profit (1)

Ian Alexander (997430) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068005)

Is it "Anything which doesn't make a profit" or "Anything [outside the defence industry, of course] that, after having millions and millions of dollars pumped into it, produces nothing at all but calls for more money"?

You might think it's valuable. I wonder why we're wasting millions of dollars on looking for aliens (and utterly failing) when we have bigger concerns much closer to home.

Re:No profit (1)

Ian Alexander (997430) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068061)

oops. Really should have done more than skim the summary, eh?

Arecibo is valuable. It's SETI I have problems with.

I don't understand the US government (1)

Al Al Cool J (234559) | more than 6 years ago | (#24067963)

We know for a fact there are weapons of mass destruction [wikipedia.org] in space. Doesn't cutting funding to space research mean that the asteroids have won?

Or better yet, don't write Congress (4, Interesting)

Einer2 (665985) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068081)

The ground-based astronomical budget is finite, and the only way we're going to finance 50 shiny new programs is by shutting down the old ones that aren't scientifically competitive. Arecibo hasn't been scientifically competitive in a decade, and it won't ever be competitive in the era when we want to build LSST, PANSTARRS, TMT, ATA, ATST, and a dozen other acronyms.

We've already had one near-miss, when Hillary Clinton tried to force some budget language funding Arecibo in the weeks before the Puerto Rico primary. She didn't earmark new funding, she just added a mandate that existing funding go there. Oddly enough, the legislation didn't mention which other ground-based program would be cut to free up the funds...

Re:Or better yet, don't write Congress (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068517)

Aricebo is to radio telescopes what hubble and spitzer are to optical .

It's the most sensitive EM listening post on the planet.

I don't see what makes it "uncompetitive"

Re:Or better yet, don't write Congress (3, Insightful)

Einer2 (665985) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068677)

There is no compelling science case for Arecibo that can't be pursued with other telescopes, especially since the frontier of radio astronomy has mostly moved from sensitivity (requiring big apertures) to resolution (requiring long-baseline arrays), or to shorter mm/submm wavelengths that Arecibo can't handle.

They've actually moved a large fraction of Arecibo's time over to survey efforts: "We'll do the same piece of sky, but with a flux limit 3 times deeper!" Sorry, but there are too many programs with the potential for transformative new discoveries to keep a major observatory open purely for incremental science.

Re:Or better yet, don't write Congress (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068793)

let's replace Arecibo with "hubble" or "spitzer"..

Re:Or better yet, don't write Congress (2, Interesting)

Einer2 (665985) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068889)

Hubble: Weak lensing. Reionization. Exoplanet transit characterization. Directly-imaged protoplanetary/debris disks.

Spitzer: Transitional disks. ULIRGs. Exoplanet secondary transits. Star formation, period. Direct imaging of free-floating planetary-mass objects.

See? It's not that hard, even if you don't stray too far outside your (or your colleagues') field of specialization. There really are a lot of important (and sexy) science cases floating around, they just don't really require Arecibo.

Re:Or better yet, don't write Congress (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068963)

or we could use the dilbert catchphrase

"you're not CUTE anymore!"

"Scientific hedonism" (2, Insightful)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 6 years ago | (#24068791)

In times of recession the lawmakers get allergic to basic research, which they think is a kind of scientific hedonism. The thought pattern here seems to be that science is a shabby garden run by elitist weirdos. You water this garden with money and then you can pick the new drugs, weapons and consumer electronics growing on its trees. The lawmakers attempt to tidy up this garden in order to improve the yield of goodies by cutting down the trees that don't bear fruit. This can only be harmful in the end, because they don't have a faintest idea about gardening...

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