Mirror Magazine
19th March 2000

Front Page|
Editorial/Opinion| Plus| Business|
Sports| Sports Plus|

The Sunday Times on the Web




Contents Index Page
Front Page
Sports Plus

Is the truth out there?

By Udena R. Attygalle

Answers! You want answers. You fall into that confusing grey limbo between the known and the unknown a couple of hundred times a day. And then when night comes it's so hard looking at that starry blue nothingness and not knowing. Is there life out there? Glossy covered stories of alien abductions, UFO's, and fox movies keep flying around your mind. Or a terrible thought: are we the only ones? You and I don't know and Einstein didn't either. But the search for the answers has been on ever since the first man looked at the sky. But finally you and I can be a part of the great search.

SETI the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is a scientific attempt to discover intelligent life elsewhere in the universe primarily by attempting to discover radio signals that indicate intelligence.

Hoping to actually see alien life has long been given up as fruitless. So how can we star gazers in tiny Sri Lanka with no radio telescope be a part of the great search. The answer lies in the most improbable place: a screen saver. Nonsense you might say. But then this is the work of some of the brainiest people in the world.

SETI@home uses thousands of internet connected PC's to help in the search for extra terrestrial intelligence. This is not a part of the research programme of the SETI institute but uses data collected with the Arecibo Radio Telescope, in Puerto Rico as a part of Project SERENDIP. The idea behind SETI@home is to take advantage of the unused processing cycles of personal computers.

The way this would work is as follows : an interested computer owner would download free software from SETI@home. Then when the computer is idle (when the screen saver is on) this software will download a 300 kilo byte chunk of SERENDIP data for analysis. The results of these analysis are ultimately sent back to the SERENDIP team. Combined with the crunched data from many thousands of SETI@home participants this is used to help in the search for extra terrestrial intelligence.

If you do decide to download the screen saver you would add to the 1.6 million participants in 224 countries. The amount of computing time contributed since May 1999 is equal to 165,000 years averaging 10 teraflops (about 10 times more that the largest super computer!)

Project Phoenix another project of SETI is labeled the "world's most sensitive and comprehensive search for extraterrestrial intelligence". It is an attempt to detect extra terrestrial civilizations by listening to radio signals that are either being deliberately beamed our way or are inadvertly transmitted from another planet.

Phoenix doesn't scan the whole sky. Rather, it scrutinises the vincinities of nearby sun-like stars within the distance of 200 light years. Such stars are most likely to host long lived planets capable of supporting life.

By mid1999 Phoenix had examined about half of the stars on the hit list of 1000. So far no clear extraterrestrial transmissions have been found . But who knows the faint whine that would betray an alien civilization could be heard tomorrow.

Keep on listening SETI !

But then what if extraterrestrial life has already hit us. Are we looking in the wrong place? Are we looking too far ? It could just be an X- files influenced delirious mind but the thought and the people who believe it are very real.

Some enthusiasts believe in a great white lodge. They call it Shamballa and consider it to be the spiritual centre of the universe. Space bends around Shamballa and provides a gateway to another Universe. The entrance to Shamballa on earth lies underground somewhere in the trans-Himalayan region. Some others believe that it is somewhere in the Gobi Dessert.

There are even organisations like the "brotherhood of the white temple" that search for this holy place.

Shamballa ? I just put on my shades and believe it's a figment of somebody's imagination. That brings us to a major black hole in the hunt for extraterrestrial intelligence. What do you believe and what do you not ? I guess we'll never know till somebody finds out for real. After all the "truth" is out there. Or is it?

ImageThe Saints were out in full force last week as Josephians, young and old took to the streets for thei Millennium Walk 2000. While the young ones had plenty of fun, water bottles, flags and all, the senios got up to some tall stuff on stilts. Larger than life cartoon characters too had their part in entertaining the walkers, while even 'Jambo Junior' showed his excitement by raising his srunk in what seem to be a lusty trumpet. Pix by Dunstan Wickremaratne.



More Mirror Magazine

Return to Mirror MagazineContents


Front Page| News/Comment| Editorial/Opinion| Plus| Business| Sports| Sports Plus| Mirror Magazine

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to

The Sunday Times or to Information Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.

Presented on the World Wide Web by Infomation Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.

Hosted By LAcNet