One of my favorite movies (and books) of all time is Contact. The search for–and finding of– extraterrestrial life in that story is so different than in many sci fi classics. I remember the first time I saw the movie, I was fascinated to learn that SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) was a real organization. During my I-want-to-be-an-astronomer days, I thought nothing would be more thrilling than to work at SETI.
Well, that day has come.
Jill Tarter, director of the Center for SETI research, spoke recently on CNN about a new SETI project. This project “…empower[s] Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company.”
So…care to go find some aliens? Anyone on Earth can now go to SETIQuest, download a program, get signals from SETI’s radio telescopes, and start searching for ET. It’s still under development, but it’s SETI’s way of getting the common man to help in their quest for the common alien.
Now, I’m definitely geeking out about being able to look for aliens, but let’s take this on a writerly bent. Aliens are a naturally common facet of sci fi stories. This tech makes it possible for 10-year-old Larry to be the first contact for an alien species. That alone has about a million story possibilities. What if Larry doesn’t know he’s found the aliens, but the aliens realize he has? Do they contact him? Does anyone believe him? Does he become some kind of messiah figure to the aliens? To the Earthlings who believe him? Those are just a few (slightly stereotypical) thoughts on this issue.
Who’s got some better ideas out there?