Crowdsourcing into the Furthest Reaches of the Galaxy

In the 60s at the University of California, Dr. Frank Drake devised what is called the Drake equation. Basically, the equation works with multiple estimates including the number of Earth-like worlds per planetary system, the fraction of possible communicative planets, and the lifetime of those possible communicative civilizations, etc. resulting in an estimate that there are approximately 10,000 planets in the Milky Way galaxy that could contain intelligent life capable of communication.

Not that this number was supposed to present a strategy, so much as a way to start conversation in the search for extraterrestrial life. But now the crowd is being invited to help in that quest. Announced at the LA TED conference, SETI shared that they will be asking the crowd for help in seeking new life on the new SETILive site. So far, there have been over 2,254,399 and counting.

How it works:

  • You register for a Zooniverse profile (the same crowdsourcing gurus that encouraged you to identify objects in space).
  • Your screen presents a view of the sky from a telescope in California with lines marking possible signal trajectories.
  • You mark whatever looks like a signal with your mouse and describe it (signals are distinct patterns – and you can look at other examples)
  • Not too hard – even for a novice.

The project is being run by Dr Jillian Tarter who says, “I’m hoping that an army of volunteers can help us deal with these crowded frequency bands that confuse our machines. By doing this in real time, we will have an opportunity to follow up immediately on what our volunteers discover.”

That’s the power of the crowd!

What other ways can the crowd reach beyond our own world? What do you think will be discovered? Fancy a chat with a crowd of abductees?

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