updated 3:00 a.m. 25.Nov.98.PST
Looking for ... money: Scientists from Search for Extra-Terrestrial
Intelligence organizations around the country are petitioning the White
House, asking that the US government restore funding for its research
Earlier this week, Tobias D. Wabbel, science-fiction author and founder
of the Project Starvoice European SETI program, released a petition
signed by about 33 SETI researchers, including Arthur C. Clarke, author
of 2001: A Space Odyssey; Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard anthropologist and
author of books like Questioning the Millennium; and Dennis Overbye and
James Gleick, science writers for The New York Times. The petition will
be sent to President Clinton in January.
"The discovery of what may be fossils of microbiological life on Mars
... has rekindled popular interest in the momentous question of whether
humankind is alone in the universe," reads the petition. "[SETI] could
answer that question."
SETI researchers use telescopes to scan radiowaves for signals
indicating transmissions from other life forms in the universe. In the
early 1990s, the government funded SETI research, but Congress cut the
money in September 1993. The $12 million a year to support SETI
research is "a scientific bargain," according to the petition.
Currently, SETI research in the United States relies on private
funding, said Dan Werthimer, a radioastronomer who runs the Berkeley
SERENDIP SETI program. Money is tight, but SETI researchers have gotten
donations from the likes of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Intel
co-founder Gordon Moore, and from the Planetary Society, a nonprofit
space interest group founded by Carl Sagan. And the word is spreading
-- the next Star Trek movie, Insurrection, will even promote a SETI
research project called SETI@home.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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