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The Real Cost of SETI

Posted by Alan at 5:13 PM on May 2, 2011

I found an interesting info-graphic today while browsing one of my favorite science blogs – Bad Astronomy, run by astronomer, author, and debunker of woo, Phil Plait.  As everyone has probably heard, SETI, the “search for extraterrestrial intelligence” is being shut down.  The issue was budget-related.  To be fair, Phil got this from the Microcosmologist blog.  A portion of the image is shown below, but you really need to click it and view the whole thing for full effect.

seti info-graphic

The cost of SETI operations is $2.5 million per year, or the cost of 5 Tomahawk missile.  And, from that starting point, costs just spiral out of control.  I ask you all, if you believe in this program, then read what both links I provided have to say.

Check out the info-graphic that displays what we spend elsewhere.  Sure, things like national-defense are necessary.  But, when $1 from every Starbucks customer could fund such great science for years, is that really too much to ask?  When a single bank executive could fund SETI with walking-around money, is that too much to ask?  Google could fund this project without even missing the money.  Hint to any Google execs who read this blog…

Are we alone?  It seems unlikely in a universe so vast.  Can we find ET?  Again, in a universe so vast…  But, without SETI, then one of our best chances will disappear.  And that, I think, is a real shame.  Perhaps SETI needs to sign up for KickStarter….