Could Active-SETI Learn From… Twitter?

twitter_earth

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been an ongoing endeavour for the last 50 years. Detecting radio communications from an alien civilization would be the most profound event in mankind’s history; its effect would change the way we view our origin and our place in the Universe. It could mean that far from “being alone” we could be existing in a cosmic ecosystem, where life is more common than not and advanced extraterrestrial civilizations are no longer science fiction. A positive SETI signal would affect us globally; science, religion, society, daily life would alter radically.

Unfortunately, SETI is currently drawing up blanks. Apart from one or two inconclusive signs, it looks like we live in a dead part of the galaxy. Life As We Know It™ is an Earth-only affair. Who knows, we might be searching for another five decades and still be no closer to answering the question “are we alone?

Not to be too downhearted, scientists have been trying to make our presence felt by reversing SETI; we’ve been Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI, a.k.a. “Active-SETI”) ever since we attached a plaque depicting the human form and a handy galactic map to Earth to the side of the Pioneer probes in the 1970s. Now we send a variety of radio signals to the stars in the hope of attracting ET’s attention.

But what signal do we send? Do we send a message with only good stuff from Earth? Or should we send a more gritty message, detailing our flaws as well as achievements? What actually makes a “good” METI signal in the first place?

Perhaps SETI could take some advice from the evolving social media scene, after all, when done right, there’s no more efficient way of conveying a clear message via 140 characters or less…
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Twitter Hearts Space Science Blogging

It’s Friday Saturday [get comfortable, this turned into a long post], and I’ve been bogged down with a HUGE project I’ve been keeping under wraps for a couple of months (you will find out what that’s about on Monday), so I’ve been blogging in fits and starts. All going well, I’ll be back up to speed on the growing list of space news on Astroengine.com and the Universe Today very soon. However, as it’s the end of the week, I feel like posting my thoughts on Twitter, a microblogging platform that has become an invaluable tool not only for my science writing, but for meeting wonderful, like-minded people…
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How Do You Spot Science Abuse in the Social Media Soup?

Heads should be held in shame...

Heads should be held in shame...

You know the drill, we’ve all been there.

There you are, minding your own business, participating in the Web 2.0 phenomenon, scanning through the webpages on one of the countless social media sites. And then you see them, like coffee stains on your white upholstery, pages that seem a little out of place. One entry tells you that the world is coming to an end. Another tells you that the Illuminati have built a base on Pluto (with the obligatory IT’S A PLANET!!! comment underneath). Oh, and there’s another, claiming that a comet, twice the size of Jupiter is actually Planet X… and it’s coming right for us!

Of course, our common-sense neurons usually kick in, telling us that the author of the article is either a) nuts, b) an idiot, c) flying at half-mast or d) a troll. In which case, we are able to flex our social media muscles by burying, down-thumbing, down-arrowing, reporting or ignoring the offender.

There we go, social media in practice. One BIG victory for online democracy!

However, sometimes it’s not that simple. What if the author seems to be bona fide? What if the author is a so called “expert”? Say if the article uses some real science to explain their hopelessly flawed theory?

I may have been trawling around the dregs of the doomsday theory ilk for the past year, but the following list applies to pretty much any daft conspiracy theory or outrageous science claim, intended to misinform, scare or cause an online headache as you voyage through the increasingly accessible social media…
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My Social Universe

My Facebook Universe

My Facebook Universe

It might seem a little egocentric, but I thought this was rather cool. After wading knee-deep in Facebook code for the last few days, I came across some nice little tools. As with 90% of Facebook apps, it is debatable as to whether they are considered “useful” or not, but the power of this social media platform is abundant.

Take this application for example. Using an easy to use Java interface, you can get a visual snapshot of your online social network. I’ve only got as far as displaying all my friends according to location; in my case, predominantly from my hometown of Bristol, England and university town of Aberystwyth, Wales. There is also a strengthening contingent from the US (in the bottom left of the image, above).

So, this is my very own social universe. All they need to do is to make this 3D and rotate dynamically and it really will be like having my very own planetarium of Facebook friends :-)

Ok, ok, I’m getting back to the space science writing now

Astroengine Social Media: Facebook Connect

Facebook Connect, a new era for social media...

Facebook Connect, a new era for social media...

Facebook recently officially announced the release of Facebook Connect. At first, I was a little dubious as to what it would do; after all who needs to sign in to their Facebook account when surfing other websites, right?

Actually, Facebook Connect is a little deeper than that. Until now, Facebook has remained on Facebook.com, there was no way to transplant any of the social media applications to your own website (apart from a few developers). Applications for Facebook have been around since the dawn of the site, allowing users to develop and launch their own “useful” tools to connect, play, message and inform friends. Some have argued that the site was becoming cumbersome, with a vast number of user applications ballooning the platform out of all proportions. Many userpages were cluttered and overcrowded (including mine). So only a few weeks ago, Facebook underwent a huge face-lift, appearing to cut most of the chaff from userpages.

So far, so good.

But then the growing company announces it was developing its flexible platform to branch out. It would appear Facebook.com was just the beginning, over the coming months we’ll see Facebook applications appearing on other websites, expanding the scope of this social networking tool across the Internet…
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Follow Astroengine Live! on Facebook

Facebook logo

Facebook logo

In an attempt to hard-wire Astroengine.com and Astroengine Live! to the complex web of social websites out there, I’ve created an Astroengine Live! Facebook group. Although Facebook seems to eat time, I wanted to give my little radio show a boost in popularity. As I have so many friends on the social site, it seemed logical. However, a big thanks goes to my good friend Avi for showing me the powers of social websites, I don’t think I would have pushed into the world of Twitter, Digg or Stumble Upon if it wasn’t for his motivation.

I’ve always seen social networking/bookmarking sites as “timewasters”, but when used correctly, you can gather information in a very efficient way. In turn, you promote yourself, simply by socialising. A great tool.

So, be sure to visit my Facebook group for Astroengine Live, and I’ll be sure to maintain it to bring you all the show news and updates. The group will also give you an additional opportunity to provide feedback (i.e. if you find me boring one Wednesday evening, you can give me a good telling off…)

Note: Have a look to the right of this post, and you’ll see a few social websites I use most frequently. Be sure to check me out and give me a tweet, shout, email, message, text, thumbs up or a vote when ever you like ;-)

Follow Astroengine on Twitter!

Astroengine on Twitter...

Astroengine on Twitter...

As if I’m not spending enough time in front of my computer already, it appears there’s another social web application I’ve been neglecting! I actually signed up to Twitter in August, but forgot about my Twitter account’s existence until now. After an explore, I realised it’s actually a very powerful tool, providing up-to-the second updates (in under 140 characters) about, well, anything.

First things first, I’m going to use it for personal stuff (although, “I’m doing my teeth,” or “I’m hungry” probably won’t feature) plus Astroengine article updates. I’ve now seen, that if I get enough followers, it might also be a good way to notify everyone about forthcoming Astroengine Live shows (next one is on Wednesday at 4pm PST – don’t forget! I’ll post another reminder later if you fancy tuning into my banter on the airwaves…). There will also be various updates for articles I post on the Universe Today.

So, if you are currently Twittering, follow me on the Astroengine Twitter feed, otherwise, sign up for a free account and start making sweet Twitterings…

See you there!

Cheers, Ian