Simulations! (late, but how would Scotty have handled it?)

It’s been about five weeks since my last post where I announced we’d start testing follow-ups in the background and also that some improvements to the waterfalls along with adding simulated ET signals to them were imminent. Well, we checked  those subtle but important waterfall improvements off the t0-do list two weeks later and yesterday, at about 21:30 UTC, we finally got simulations live. It took five weeks – longer than we had figured, but like  most science and engineering tasks, you’re doing something new and don’t always know what you’re getting into until you start making it work. Now, Star Trek’s Chief Engineer Lt. Commander  Scott (“Scotty”) might have figured that it should take a week, multiply that by five to get the real time for the task and then multiply it again by five and tell the captain it would take 25 weeks. The Captain would demand it in five and Scotty would say “I’ll do my best, Captain”, self-satisfied and with a barely visible smile. I’ll try to be more Scotty-like in the future.

Trekkies: I know that the Star Trek franchise has alluded to and made references to this process over the years. Any specifics about those references would be appreciated.

Our primary purpose for inserting simulations (“sims”) into the waterfalls is to conduct a controlled experiment which will measure the statistics on how well you, as a group, are able to detect a signal in a waterfall with noise and sometimes RFI signals in the background. The results we get will be an important part of a peer-reviewed scientific paper we plan to eventually publish and we’ll make comparisons to some basic computer algorithms. So, you’ll be a part of these real, important scientific results derived from the SETILive project.

Another benefit of adding sims that users have pointed out is that it’s an occasional “test” that helps us be sure we continue to be careful, looking closely for that weak signal track  that’s fading in and out and seems to sort of follow a line. It could be a signal of interest, trigger a follow-up and who knows, even make it to “Wow!” status.

The sims have random positions, angles, “wandering” patterns and randomly fade in an out in brightness to emulate typical signals. The two  key parameters that are systematically varied over wide ranges are brightness and how much they randomly move from side to side (“erratic-ness”) . Because we’re trying to find the limits of our users’ ability to pick these out, some will be so dim that no one would be able to see them, so don’t feel badly when we show you where a simulation was that you missed. Currently, you can’t see just how dim a missed simulation was and we’ll look into whether or not we should change that. We have to carefully consider doing anything that might affect how you as a group do the classifying. It might add an unwanted variable into the statistics. There have been some good suggestions on Talk for how to do it if we can – thanks!

Speaking of follow-ups, that’s been an even tougher slog. We’re doing something that hasn’t really been tried before. Yes, SETILive follow-ups are modeled after the automatic ones that are already working at the ATA, but replacing detection algorithms and calls to local computer programs at the ATA with the remote,web-based, human-in-the-loop SETILive detection process is quite different in many details so requires some programming and communication protocols that are not already there. We also can only work at certain times in the ATA schedule and also have to deal with scheduling around the availability of the experts who are making it work. It’s coming along, and we feel it will be working soon. When will it be live? I’m afraid we can’t really say exactly. Where’s Scotty when you need him? He’d have an answer.


9 responses to “Simulations! (late, but how would Scotty have handled it?)”

  1. Shannon says :

    I hope my helping out helps you, even though I’m still not sure I’m using SETIlive correctly lol.

    With more and more, ordinary, everyday people searching these waterfalls and collecting data, we can hopefully help to discover ET! Even if only 10 people, or fewer, a day collecting data, that’s a lot of waterfalls for you guys, in a week/month etc., to search through!! By the way, how many people, of your team, actually process so much data?! How long does it take to process?

    • Lou Nigra says :

      Don’t worry about using it correctly if you’ve looked at some tutorial material (Under Classify: Video and Signals, also Graphic Guide on Talk:Featured Discussions) you’ll do fine and you’ll contribute. I think the Video is probably the best single resource all things considered, but the Graphic Guide is great and a lot quicker.

      Our efforts are mostly in writing various programs to efficiently process the tons of data we’re collecting. That can involve weeks and months, but has to be done to make processing the data even possible.

  2. spacebaby8 says :

    If you are doing simulations interactively you are on the right path…its almost like thinking in an advanced way backward…with extremely advanced technology – if you were extremely advanced, then how would you “back-track” to create the most simply complicated means of effective communication with an “ancient civilization” that the earth would be considered to be – believing that advanced intelligence exists…it would be like going back in time to the Sumerians and just communicating without a guide – you would have to learn their way – because there are studies now considering and trying to prove faster than the speed of light basic physics laws – if receiving a signal that is in fact ET would then prove that these signals would have to get help meaning at some point along its course, move a higher proportion faster than the speed of light and then either the speed of light or slower than the speed of light in order to be detected by human technology…so their are many laws that a signal would have to go through to get there in a human year from lets say 100 light years or even a 1000 light years…I recently studied elliptical polarized light and circular polarized light considering a pattern of light path that would be received in a different manner – for example light moving through dark matter bending in a circular motion accelerating like a NASCAR at the corner of the track – rather than coming into the finish line straight on it would be elliptical or circular…I believe by creating or using Sims to establish what would be unique in a wave – can then be duplicated or created as communication not derived on earth…like a finger print of physics so to say…

  3. Ken says :

    When you are classifying archived data, it is obvious which ones are the simulations because the clock is active for the simulations only. This will likely skew your results and make users appear better at finding them than they really are.

  4. Mary says :

    I would love to get in on the “live followup” but my computer is saying that you’re certificate is out of date.

    Any ideas how I can get through?

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  6. aplikacje mobilne says :

    What’s up, the whole thing is going nicely here and ofcourse every one is sharing data, that’s genuinely good, keep up writing.

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