Is there anybody there?
SETIcon is being held at the Santa Clara Hyatt Regency. It is a serious conference that features scientists, celebrities and sci-fi writers in what's being called a "mind-meld of entertainment and scientific exploration."
Scheduled panels include "Looking for a Few Good Earths: Finding Our Counterpart Among the Stars," "Multiverses: Is One Cosmos Enough?" "Why Are There No Tourists from Other Worlds?" and "Secrets of the Red Planet: What Have We Learned from Mars Exploration?"
It's not all science and academia, though. On Friday night, the event hosted a game of Rock Band, hosted by Phil Plait. He's an astronomer who worked on the Hubble project for a decade and gained fame for his "Bad Astronomer" blog in which he debunks bad science.
Even if the science is a bit over your head, you can still participate. The "SETI at Home" project allows anyone with a computer to devote idle processing time to analyzing radio transmissions. Currently, the program claims three million participants.
SETI isn't a formal project -- it's a term that applies to a broad array of extraterrestrial investigations that trace their history back decades. A radio telescope in West Virginia was one of the first to examine space for signs of intelligent life, back in the 1960s. And in 1979, UC Berkeley launched a project called "SERENDIP" that analyzes existing radio transmissions. SERENDIP continues to this day, with a spectrometer installed in Arecibo, Mexico.
Of course, so far nobody's detected any signs of extraterrestrial communication. Or have they? THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.