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Science on the cheap!
August 3, 2000 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Science on the cheap! Now this is cool. (more inside)
posted by Steven Den Beste (3 comments total)

 
Ten million bucks may not sound cheap but what they're going to do is to end up with one of the most powerful radio telescopes on earth, for a VERY low price relative to how much it would cost to do the traditional way.

You can buy a very reasonable dish now for receiving downlinks from satellites. They steer quite nicely by remote control with built in motors and track very well, they're quite accurate, and they don't cost all that much. What these guys are going to do is take that ten million bucks and buy several hundred or thousand of these dishes (quantity discount!) and build a big array of them in an open field. They'll all track together, and collectively they'll have the RF-gathering capability of a more traditional radio telescope which might cost a hundred million bucks or more, like one of those immense ones you've seen pictures of which stand hundreds of feet tall. (Those things are non-trivial to build.)

And they're going to use them to look for ET radio signals. Unlike SETI@HOME which is stuck with just the part of the sky that the Arecibo dish can see, this system will be able to monitor most of the sky, and they'll be able to pick their targets. More important is that they'll be able to look at them for as long as they want to (as long as they're above the horizon) instead of being stuck with SETI@HOME's 45 seconds.

I wonder if they may borrow SETI@HOME's software for processing (or do something similar).

The resulting system is going to be truly awesome and not cost all that much considering what they're going to end up with. Paul Allen is quite entitled to have his name on the thing for the money he's contributed. More power to him.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:41 PM on August 3, 2000


I've always liked Paul Allen's stance towards scientific research. "I've got way too much money, that project's neat, here project, have some coinage."

He's the one that started Interval, isn't he?
posted by cCranium at 4:24 PM on August 3, 2000


What's wrong with SETI's 45 seconds? SETI gets more data than it can handle.

I don't have anything against SETI, but radio astronomers should be able to use this thing for something other than alien hunting. I wonder what % of time will be just for SETI. I don't know what people are expecting from SETI, we already have one anamolous WOW signal. We'll probably get another, eventually, considering that WOW doesn't impress the masses, I doubt SETI will, unless they have a great PR and media machine ready to roll.

I have the feeling that too many people are expecting a television transmission from the stars with a bunch of aliens talking about peace and the democratic federation of planets, sorry its just gonna be another powerful signal with no meaning other than the meaning we project on it.


posted by skallas at 2:44 PM on August 6, 2000


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