It was back in May of 1999 when I had first heard of “peer to peer” computer projects, in which a large number of privately owned computers connected to the Internet contributed CPU resources to shared projects requiring data analysis. Most interesting to me was the SETI@home project, whose purpose is to aid in the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) by analyzing data received by the massive radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The idea that the public could participate in assisting in the analysis of data that could eventually lead to the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence was intriguing to me since I am of the opinion that intelligent life may exist on other planets. I had just bought my first new desktop computer, a Macintosh G3 Power PC, having owned two used and already obsolete Macintosh “portables,” the SE II and the Classic, and the ill-fated Newton PDA, I was eager to put my new Mac to work even if I wasn’t actually doing the work myself.
To participate in SETI@home all you needed was a computer, a relatively simple and free screen saver application supplied by the SETI@home project, and a connection to the Internet. You just let your computer do the rest during its idle time, making sure to connect to the Internet every day or so to upload the completed analysis and download new data to process. You could even set the SETI@home application’s preferences to automatically connect to the Internet to swap data with the SETI@home project’s computers at the University of Berkeley in California. This was 1999 and screen savers were popular. I liked them, particularly the one that gave you the illusion (if you had a large enough screen and stared close and long enough into it) that you were traveling through space at the speed of light with the stars of the universe flying by you. Now a screen saver that assisted in attempts to reach out and talk to beings on those stars was really something!
After running the SETI@home application for a few days, I discovered that there were organized teams of people analyzing data in the name of their school, company, social club, and other special interest groups. I thought that the Church of Satan should be represented with a SETI@home team, and so I was its founder, and for a short time, its only member. I knew that I could gather a few other members who would be interested in this project and support it under our Baphomet banner. Within two months there were seven additional members, some of whom had been running SETI@home for many months prior to the founding of the team. The activity within the team then consisted of requests to join, as well as a few of us on IRC discussing technical issues associated with application such as optimizing computer performance in order to run it faster.
One of my intentions in starting the Church of Satan SETI@home Team was to let the world know that members of the Church of Satan had an active interest in science, albeit an unconventional one using scientifically conventional means. And people were taking notice. On June 15, 2002 I received an e-mail message from SETI@home administrators telling me that I had been selected as the SETI@home User of the Day and my profile was featured on the front page of the web site. My thoughts on the SETI@home as entered in my profile read:
“In this vast world it be would short-sighted and presumptuous beyond the realms of logic to believe that we are alone in the universe. The SETI and SETI@home projects are sober and thorough attempts to reach out and search the stars for intelligent life as we know it and as long as we have both the technology and resources to perform such a search, I feel it would be a waste of the human condition to not actively and constantly attempt it.”
For 24 hours my name and picture were posted under the User of the Day heading on the SETI@home site and they were linked to my site profile which includes my picture, taken in a ritual setting, a brief bio identifying me as a Church of Satan Priest, and a link to the Church of Satan web site. This was the cause of a moderate amount of chatter on some of the SETI@home discussion forums indicating a certain amount of dismay from many SETI@home users.
It’s been five years since I first started running SETI@home and I now have over 5200 data units analyzed and logged eight years of computer hours. I’m still running it, now 24/7, on two iMacs at home and on my parent’s PC, and part time on my now outdated G3. The Church of Satan SETI@home Team is stronger than ever with over 35 members, 65 years of CPU time and nearly 50,000 units of data processed. On this Walpurgisnacht of XXXIX A.S., we are proud to be recognized on the official web site of the Church of Satan.
If you are interested in participating in the Church of Satan SETI@home Team, you must be a Registered Member of the Church of Satan and be able to provide proof thereof with a scan of your membership card, and prior to joining you must contact myself, Rev. André Schlesinger. You will need a computer with access to the Internet and you must download and install the SETI@home application from the SETI@home web site. You should also have a sincere interest in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. To remain a member in good standing you will be required to process at least nine SETI@home data units, which takes the average user only a few weeks to complete, although continued contribution of lesser amounts of processing of SETI@home data for the team is encouraged and appreciated. You should also contact the above addresses if you have any questions or problems concerning SETI@home and in the event that your SETI@home registration information (i.e. e-mail address, user name, account) has been changed. At this time there are no other requirements for participation and we are considering some limited discussion and support of our members.
I WANT TO BELIEVE
"[I]f our solar system is not unusual, then there are so many planets in the universe that, for example, they outnumber the sum of all sounds and words ever uttered by every human who has ever lived. To declare that Earth must be the only planet with life in the universe would be inexcusably bigheaded of us."
— Neil deGrasse Tyson, Death by Black Hole
“We inhabit a universe where atoms are made in the centers of stars; where each second a thousand suns are born; where life is sparked by sunlight and lightning in the airs and waters of youthful planets; where the raw material for biological evolution is sometimes made by the explosion of a star halfway across the Milky Way; where a thing as beautiful as a galaxy is formed a hundred billion times - a Cosmos of quasars and quarks, snowflakes and fireflies, where there may be black holes and other universe and extraterrestrial civilizations whose radio messages are at this moment reaching the Earth. How pallid by comparison are the pretensions of superstition and pseudoscience; how important it is for us to pursue and understand science, that characteristically human endeavor. ”
— Carl Sagan, Cosmos.
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