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Dr. SETI's ® Sample Lecture Astracts

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The following are abstracts to several of H. Paul Shuch's most popular lectures. Event organizers are welcome to draw from them, in whole or in part, in promoting Dr. SETI's lectures and presentations. To download a full-sized opening PowerPoint slide, click on the thumbnail image. Links are also provided to related professional publications on The SETI League website.

Sing a Song of SETI
Designed to educate and entertain non-technical audiences, this one-hour illustrated concert tells the history of radio astronomy and SETI in fifteen of Dr. SETI's most popular filk songs. A hit on college campuses around the world. thumbnail

read Songbooks

Tune In The Universe!
A promotional-tour lecture to introduce Dr. SETI's book of the same title, Tune In The Universe! is a radio amateur's introduction to the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Complete with eight Dr. SETI songs, this one-hour presentation is much requested for ham club meetings and annual banquets. Dr. Shuch is happy to autograph copies of his book after the presentation. thumbnail

read Book

Searching for Life Among the Stars
Just fifty years ago, most credible authorities maintained that humankind is alone among the stars, the sole sentient species in the vast cosmos. Today, the overwhelming preponderance of scientific thinking holds that we are not. How quickly we have completed the Copernican revolution! This presentation by Dr. H. Paul Shuch, executive director or the nonprofit, membership-supported SETI League, will explore the pertinent cosmological evidence which leads most knowledgeable scientists to envision a universe teeming with life. Strategies for SETI, the electromagnetic Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, will be discussed. We will introduce Project Argus, a new cooperative effort between several thousand radio amateurs which rivals any Government search ever proposed and denied funding. Finally, we will discuss the hardware and software which would make our own planet visible from across the galaxy, and which is today within our grasp. thumbnail

read Journal

Distributed Processing Goes Galactic
Are we alone, the sole sentient species in the cosmos, or might there be others, among whom we can take our rightful place? If there is indeed an interstellar internet, might we someday log on? And what are the protocols for cosmic communication? For the first time in human history we now have the technology to ask, and perhaps begin to answer, these questions. In this presentation, H. Paul Shuch explores the strengths and weaknesses of [email protected], the most ambitious distributed computing experiment on this planet. You will learn how thousands of amateur radio telescopes are forming a global net to snare that elusive fish in the cosmic pond, and expore how the lessons learned from the [email protected] experience can be brought to bear on the problem of massive data collection and analysis. Dr. SETI believes it is the world's radio amateurs and computer hobbyists who will ultimately bring in signals from the stars. thumbnail

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One Hundred Up, 4900 To Go!     A SETI Project Argus Update
Reviewing the design criteria of the basic Project Argus amateur radio telescope shows that it achieves sensitivity on a par with the very best professional facilities of a quarter century ago. The challenges of SETI verification and global participation are discussed. Several interesting candidate signals are shown (none of which passed our rigorous tests for intelligent extra-terrestrial origin). Extrapolating current Project Argus technology into the next few decades, we begin to contemplate arraying multiple amateur radio telescopes into a coordinated array of planetary proportions. thumbnail

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2001: A Moonbounce Odyssey
On numerous occasions during the past four decades, several of the world's largest radio telescopes have been used to reflect interesting microwave signals off the Lunar surface, introducing hundreds of the world's amateur radio operators to the exotic world of EME (Earth-Moon-Earth) communications, or moonbounce. In the third month of the 21st Century, radio amateurs at the nonprofit, grassroots SETI League had an opportunity to return the favor, by providing astronomers at the Arecibo Observatory with a highly stable, precisely calibrated moonbounce signal with which to test their equipment. In the design, construction, and operation of their Lunar Reflective Calibration Beacon for Radio Astronomy and SETI, these radio hams have demonstrated that the difference between amateur and professional involves neither scientific rigor nor technological prowess, but rather the size of the paycheck. thumbnail

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Anatomy of a SETI Hoax
Non-professional involvement in SETI science, which is encouraged by the nonprofit SETI League, Inc., increases the opportunity for the perpetration of hoaxes. The SETI League has already been peripherally involved in three separate false claims of ETI contact. Two were simple cases of mistaken identity, easily rectified. But the third was an elaborate hoax perpetrated by an internet hacker who broke into a closed signal verification email list. Such claims call for a prompt but measured response, so as not to subject the SETI community to charges of complicity in conspiracy or cover-up activities. In this presentation SETI League executive director Dr. H. Paul Shuch explores the dilemma of encouraging grass-roots participation, while avoiding association with fraudulent and pseudo-scientific claims. thumbnail

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Standards of Proof for the Detection of Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence
The privatization of SETI has resulted in global participation in signal detection and analysis activities by a wide range of non-professionals. The SETI community welcomes this grass-roots support, every bit as much as the optical observing community honors the significant scientific contributions of the world's amateur astronomers. However, as SETI observatories spring up on college campuses and in home gardens worldwide, a need emerges for establishing rigorous signal verification protocols and stringent standards of proof.
We recognize the possibility that overly rigorous verification standards can result in an unacceptably high incidence of false negatives. This risk must be balanced against the negative impact on SETI activities everywhere, should lax verification procedures result in the reporting of false positives. In this presentation Dr. H. Paul Shuch, executive director or the nonprofit, membership-supported SETI League, proposes verification and reporting protocols that seek a middle ground.

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Optical SETI Comes Of Age
For many years the microwave Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) held the spotlight, while the number of optical SETI observatories on this planet could be counted on the thumbs of one hand. In the five years since the last Optical SETI Conference, that has begun to change, with optical SETI finally emerging into the scientific mainstream. Advancing technology is only partly responsible for OSETI's change of fortune. This author believes that the ultimate acceptance of the optical search strategy can be attributed to the tireless efforts of a single pioneer.
Recent pioneering efforts in microwave SETI have met with similar resistance from the established SETI community, reminding one of an adage from the American West: pioneers end up with arrows in their backs. The SETI League's Project Argus sky survey, for example, which seeks to do credible science with modest amateur equipment, designed, built and operated by dedicated non-professionals, continues to draw criticism from the SETI establishment. Many traditional radio astronomers still believe that SETI requires the kinds of facilities which only governments can afford. This paper explores optical SETI's recent move from the sidelines to center stage, in search of lessons which the world's amateur microwave SETIzens can learn from our dedicated optical brethren.

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Array2k: Multiple Dishes, Multiple Modes
For the past two years, the SETI community has marveled at the development of the ambitious Paul Allen Telescope, a mini-Cyclops consisting of up to a thousand phased satellite TV-type dishes. While saluting the efforts of our California colleagues, The SETI League has been hard at work on its own phased array design, more modest in scope but quite as technologically audacious. When completed, Array2k will employ a unique mix of analog and digital techniques to operate in five distinct modes simultaneously. Optimized as a drift-scan sky survey instrument in the proud tradition of Ohio State's Big Ear, it will serve as its own Follow-Up Detection Device, verifying its own findings in real time. thumbnail

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The Very Small Array: Thinking Big on a Small Scale
The nonprofit SETI League began conceptual design work in 1999 on Array2k, a planned phased array of satellite TV dishes, to be used as an amateur radio telescope of unique flexibility. Although the funding required to implement this design still eludes us, The SETI League has amassed, through a multitude of grants and small contributions, the resources necessary to construct a small-scale prototype. Thus, an eight-dish Very Small Array (VSA) is now being tested in the backyard of Dr. SETI's rural Pennsylvania home. This presentation shows how donated dishes, student labor, and ham ingenuity are being combined to prove a high-tech concept on a shoestring budget. thumbnail

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SETI Horn of Plenty: an Argus Antenna Alternative
The parabolic reflector has, since the days of Reber, been the antenna of choice for amateur radio astronomers. Today, Project Argus participants typically employing discarded backyard satellite TV dishes of three to five meters in diameter. Such antennas perform well, but their size, as well as complications of municipal zoning restrictions, preclude their use by many a potential Argonaut.

This lecture presents construction and performance details of an alternative Argus antenna, a portable waveguide horn reminiscent of the one used by Ewen in 1951 to first detect the 21 cm radiation signature of interstellar hydrogen. Producing +19 to +21 dBi of gain across the 1200 - 1700 MHz band, the SETI Horn of Plenty rises to the challenge of mapping galactic hydrogen. It also performs well in monitoring the Sun, the Moon, natural radio sources in Cygnus, Cassiopeia, Taurus, and Sagittarius, and (maybe, some day) in detecting ETI.


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SETI Sneak Attack: Lessons Learned from the Pearl Harbor Hoax
On December 7th, 2002 (a date that will live in infamy), the nonprofit SETI League received a terse email from a person not known to us, reporting the apparent detection at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii of a microwave signal of intelligent extraterrestrial origin. During the following twenty hours our members analyzed the claim, corresponded with the claimant, attempted (unsuccessfully) to independently verify the signal, and ultimately unmasked the claim as completely fraudulent. This episode gave the SETI community its first opportunity for real-time application of the Rio Scale, an analytical tool for quantifying the societal impact of a claimed SETI detection. The Pearl Harbor Hit started out at a one on the zero-to-ten ordinal Rio Scale, rose to a high of four, and then quickly fell to its ultimate value of zero, validating the utility of the Rio Scale. thumbnail

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The Magic of Microstrip
Once, the traces on a printed circuit board served merely to interconnect the various discrete components. Now, the traces are the components! This one-hour class introduces engineers, technicians, and radio amateurs to modern microstrip technology, such as is used in much of The SETI League's microwave receiving equipment. thumbnail

read various
Microstrip Articles

Electromagnetic Spectrum Basics
One of the remarkable things about electromagnetic waves is that they all behave fundamentally alike, whether emanating from sunlight, searchlight or satellite. Ultrasonic waves, radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays all travel through free space basically the same, at the same constant speed, and they all follow the very same Maxwell's Equations. So if you understand one electromagnetic wave, you understand them all. The purpose of this one-hour class is to lead engineers, technicians, and radio amateurs to that universal understanding. thumbnail

read Tutorial

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this page last updated 14 June 2007
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