setiQuest is a project of the SETI Institute, whose declared aim is to "globalize the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence and empower a new generation of SETI enthusiasts",[note 1][note 2] by creating means for a deeper involvement from the interested public. The project focuses on amplifying the human potential of SETI enthusiasts, and consists of four main fronts: Software, DSP Algorithms, Citizen Scientists, and Data release.
Jill Tarter's TED wish
The setiQuest project started with Jill Tarter's "TED wish". Tarter was one of three recipients of the 2009 TED prize, which targets outstanding individuals and tries to grant them "one wish to change the world". Tarter's wish was:
|“||I wish that you would empower Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company.||”|
After the award, the project materialized through a website, that later garnered grass-roots public involvement on its discussion forum, and also in IRC meetings, various social networks, and a wiki. Some of these channels were set up by the community itself, and others were facilitated through the support of several institutions, in cooperation with the SETI Institute.
The Software branch of the project initially entailed opening the source code of SonATA, the software used on the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), into Open SonATA, to allow improvement by hobbyist programmers who are passionate about the subject and/or enjoy contributing to open source code development projects. To further this goal, setiQuest applied to, and was accepted as part of, the Google Summer of Code 2011 program.
The Algorithms subproject provides a channel for the creation of improved Digital signal processing (DSP) algorithms for detection of signals in the background noise captured by the ATA. The algorithms used on the ATA currently only search for continuous wave signals (that is, signals that appear at one frequency as a single tone) or pulsed signals. The goal of this participation mode is to allow signal processing enthusiasts to expand the search to other waveforms, perform improvements in the current algorithms or propose innovative new ones.
setiQuest also targets those who are less technically inclined, through the development of game-like apps to engage participants as Citizen Scientists, examining real data from SETI observations with the Allen Telescope Array. These apps are meant to harness the ability of the human brain to instinctively detect patterns, even in non-trivial cases where automated tools currently fail. The first of such apps, setiQuest Explorer was released in March 2011.
|“||Do you wear headphones and listen to music while you work to sharpen your concentration? Could you imagine listening to data instead and responding to anomalies?||”|
|— Jill Tarter, Talk summary for OSCON 2010|
To encourage developers to create new apps, the SETI Institute has made a large amount of its data available to the public, under a Creative Commons 3.0 license. This data, a subset of the approximately 100 terabytes collected every day, can be downloaded through the setiQuest website.
- "Getting individuals involved is key to the project, not just to process data, but to get people emotionally and intellectually invested in the mission and lend a new perspective on the world around us, Tarter said."
- "The aim would be to tap into the power of open-source initiatives, to globalize the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence and empower a new generation of SETI enthusiasts."
- Mills, Elinor (10 March 2011). "SETI taps smartphones in hunt for E.T.". CBS News.
- "TED Prize: Jill Tarter".
- "setiQuest Home Page".
- TED Prize : Wishes Big Enough to Change the World
- "setiQuest ATA Data and Algorithms".
- "SETI app taps your smartphone to hunt for E.T.".
- "SETI Explorer App Finally Gives your Phone a Purpose". Time. 10 March 2011.
- Open SETIQuest - It Will Be What You Make It!
- "setiQuest.org - Licenses".
- "setiQuest.org – setiQuest Data".