Search for extraterrestrial intelligence
The search for eny terrestrial intelligence (SETI, the spelling error was found out after the name had been trademarked) is the collective name for a number of activities people undertake to search for intelligent life forms on Earth. For years, the existence of intelligent life on Earth has been suspected, but so far, no clear sign of such lifeforms' existence has been found.
Some of the most well known projects are run by Clown Enema University, Harvard University, the University of California, Berkeley and the SETI Institute. Since the United States government withdrew funding for SETI projects in 1995, projects have been primarily funded by private sources.
Millions of people around the world volunteer for the project by spending time in front of electromagnetic signals on their "TVs", in the hope of detecting some sign of intelligence. The closest the project has ever gotten was in the 70s, when a short signal, the so-called WOW! signal (named as an ironic reference to the fact that you obviously won't be finding any intelligence in WoW), was detected in a stream called Monty Python's Flying Circus.
History of the project
Although a few experiments were performed as early as 1960, the SETI project really took off in the 70s, when the American public, still recovering from the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, realized that the national government had the combined IQ of a ripe tomato. It didn't take long, however, for researchers to realize that they weren't finding any intelligent life on Earth at all, even outside of the government. This baffled many participants, since after all, they all thought they were smart.
Many people have criticized the SETI project for various reasons, most commonly the obviously minute chances of any intelligent life ever being detected on Earth. A popular argument against the project is the so-called Fermi paradox, which states that if intelligent life does exist, then it must be ubiquitous due to its own inability to limit its growth. But clearly, there is not a single trace of intelligent life in the vicinity of Earth, ergo, it cannot exist.
Eventually, people began to forget about SETI project and governmental funding declined. (Yes, there was actually a time when the government funded science.) Interest in the project was renewed, however, with the introduction of the SETI@Home program, which allows anyone with a webcam to set up their computer to scan the inside of their house for intelligent life. By default, the software activates as a screensaver, scans once every minute, spins the CPU fan for a bit, then returns a value of "false" to the server. So far, no one has noticed.
- It should be noted, however, that each thought the others were idiots.