Astronomers, whether professional or amateur, inevitably ask themselves "are we alone in the universe?" It's a natural question to ask when you spend a lot of time looking into the sky, whether in pursuit of scientific research or in a backyard enjoying the view of a deep space object in a telescope. The term "Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence" (abbreviated SETI) is the name for a collection of worldwide projects that are studying the universe and gathering data in the hope of answering the question "are we alone?"
Here in the Bay Area, the SETI Institute is hard at work on a broad range of scientific pursuits that support the mission of SETI, "to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe. We believe we are conducting the most profound search in human history - to know our beginnings and our place among the stars." The SETI Institute is building a massive array of radio telescopes in Northern California, the first phase of which is already listening for signals of intelligent life every day.
The Director of SETI, Jill Tarter, recently was honored with the TED Prize given in February at the TED Conference. The prize brings visibility to the project and is propelling forward a major initiative to bring together a global community of technologists using social networking methods to collaborate on SETI. There is a blog on the TED website where you can follow the progress of the SETI Institute.
I am captivated by the work of the scientists and visionary leaders at the SETI Instititute and encourage others to get involved by learning about the Institute, becoming a member of TeamSETI, or volunteering in a greater capacity to support their efforts. And put your computer to work on the SETI@Home project.