David Kirkpatrick

August 14, 2009

Texting aliens

Well not quite, but this release from the wee hours of the morning grabbed my attention.

The release:

Send an Interstellar SMS During National Science Week

CANBERRA, Australia, Aug. 14 /PRNewswire/ — Australians will have the opportunity to send text-like messages to potential intelligent life beyond Earth thanks to an initiative to be launched today to mark National Science Week.

From today until 5.00 pm Monday, 24 August, the public can visit www.HelloFromEarth.net to post goodwill messages that will be transmitted to the nearest Earth-like planet outside our Solar System likely to support life.

The planet – Gliese 581d – is eight times the size of Earth and some 20 light years away (194 trillion km). It was first discovered in April 2007. Due to its size, it is classified as a ‘Super Earth’.

Messages sent during the 2009 National Science Week will arrive in the planet’s vicinity by around December 2029.

Messages can be no longer than 160 characters and will be transmitted from the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla, with the close cooperation of NASA.

Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research entered the first message at the launch of National Science Week at Questacon in Canberra, which read:

“Hello from Australia on the planet we call Earth. These messages express our people’s dreams for the future. We want to share those dreams with you.”

“What better way to discover the limitless possibilities of science than to give Australians the opportunity to try to seek contact with other intelligent life forms,” Senator Carr said.

“As a child I, like many Australians, stared up at the stars and wondered what was out there. Now science has allowed me to send a personal message that may answer that question.

“This is one way that we are stimulating debate around big questions in science, such as whether life exists outside Earth, and generating enthusiasm about science, which is what National Science Week is all about,” Senator Carr said.

The spokesperson for HelloFromEarth.net and editor of the Australian science magazine COSMOS, Mr Wilson da Silva, said the project had excited global interest.

“We’ve secured incredible support from around the globe, including NASA – people are really excited about this,” Mr da Silva said.

“It’s like a ‘message in a bottle’ cast out into the stars. What’s interesting is not just whether there’s anyone listening, but what the public will say to intelligent life on another planet, given the opportunity.

“Hello From Earth is our way of showing that science can make the impossible possible. We have been to the Moon and now, we can speak to the stars.”

The Hello From Earth site is a National Science Week initiative of COSMOS and has been developed with the support of Questacon, CSIRO, NASA, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Post-Detection Committee of the International Academy of Astronautics.

National Science Week is Australia’s largest national festival. Now in its 12th year, the event celebrates the nation’s scientific achievements, creates awareness of the importance of science and encourages students to pursue a career in science.

The 2009 festival runs from 15-23 August and includes over 800 events Australia-wide.

“National Science Week is an opportunity for Australians of all ages to learn about the wonders of science in a fun and exciting way,” Senator Carr said.

“From schools, universities and research laboratories, to community libraries, town halls and local theatres, National Science Week celebrations will be accessible to everyone.”

National Science Week is proudly supported by the Australian Government and partners CSIRO, the Australian Science Teachers Association, the ABC and shac Communications.

More information about National Science Week events and initiatives is available at www.scienceweek.gov.au.

  Links to images/ animations

  Artist’s impression of the planetary system Gliese 581
  High resolution still image
  http://bit.ly/CjQXy

  Illustration of Gliese 581 star system vs Earth’s solar system
  High resolution still image
  http://bit.ly/dawsN

  Video animation of Gliese 581d, the target planet
  Standard Definition, High Definition 720p25,
  and ultra High Definition 720p50.
  http://bit.ly/14uDLG

  Video animation of the star system Gliese 581, including the target
  planet
  Standard Definition, High Definition 720p25,
  and ultra High Definition 720p50.
  http://bit.ly/E7tjl

Source: Australian Government Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and
Research
   
Web Site:  http://www.hellofromearth.net/

December 28, 2008

Great Aussie Firewall

Very disappointing news from the land down under.

From the link:

Consumers, civil-rights activists, engineers, Internet providers and politicians from opposition parties are among the critics of a mandatory Internet filter that would block at least 1,300 Web sites prohibited by the government – mostly child pornography, excessive violence, instructions in crime or drug use and advocacy of terrorism.

Hundreds protested in state capitals earlier this month.

“This is obviously censorship,” said Justin Pearson Smith, 29, organizer of protests in Melbourne and an officer of one of a dozen Facebook groups against the filter.

The list of prohibited sites, which the government isn’t making public, is arbitrary and not subject to legal scrutiny, Smith said, leaving it to the government or lawmakers to pursue their own online agendas.

“I think the money would be better spent in investing in law enforcement and targeting producers of child porn,” he said.

Internet providers say a filter could slow browsing speeds, and many question whether it would achieve its intended goals. Illegal material such as child pornography is often traded on peer-to-peer networks or chats, which would not be covered by the filter.

“People don’t openly post child porn, the same way you can’t walk into a store in Sydney and buy a machine gun,” said Geordie Guy, spokesman for Electronic Frontiers Australia, an Internet advocacy organization. “A filter of this nature only blocks material on public Web sites. But illicit material … is traded on the black market, through secret channels.”

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy proposed the filter earlier this year, following up on a promise of the year-old Labor Party government to make the Internet cleaner and safer.