New Search for Extraterrestrials Waits for No One, Er…, Everyone

Article written: 25 Sep , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

In a bold move, astronomers have begun a new search to understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of intelligent life in the universe. Called WETI, which stands for Wait for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, the institute employs an entirely novel approach to achieve its goals. Instead of actively searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, the idea is to simply wait: Wait until the ETs find us. “Waiting is a notoriously underappreciated method in our efforts to search for extraterrestrial intelligence,” says the WETI website. “It is cheaper and less stressful than any other type of research. It is also environmentally friendly and does not cause global warming, terrorism or nuclear conflicts.” WETI’s overall objective? To set a new gold standard for scientifically meaningful waiting, and to provide humankind a new purpose as they wait.

The work of WETI was recently highlighted at the Dot Astronomy Conference on Networked Astronomy and the New Media. WETI officials overcame several problems, and were able to present a poster at the conference. Then they went out for drinks, presumably to make the waiting more enjoyable.

The poster introduces the very foundations of WETI, which includes the breakthrough “Brake Equation.” See the poster for more details.

In the near future, whenever they get around to it, WETI will provide a downloadable computer program that will make use of the idle time of your computer to very efficiently wait in the background. “Modern computers can wait several million times each second,” says WETI. “By exploiting this currently unused waiting potential we will collectively create the biggest waiting power ever applied to any problem on earth.”

I contacted the WETI Institute for more information and was pleasantly surprised that I did not have to wait very long for a reply. An Aleks Scholz, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of WETI, responded to my inquiries. When asked about the response WETI has received thus far, Scholz said,” Generally positive, with a slight inclination of being confused at first, plus occasional cases of consternation. So far, however, there were no medically relevant problems related to the responses to WETI.”

The history of the WETI Institute appears to be long and muddled. “We are still working on tracking down the roots of our organization,” said Scholz. “Most of us, however, believe that it was Knarps Hoselton who originally provided the stimulus for the WETI movement with his inspirational piece of research ‘On Some Philosophical Implications of Throwing Small Stones into a Big Body of Water’ in the early 80s. Today, Hoselton is Senior Astronomer and holds the Bruno Moravetz Chair Emeritus at the WETI Institute.” In more recent years, Scholz himself, an astronomer at the University of St. Andrews, picked up on Hoselton’s revolutionary ideas and suggested combining them with networking technology. This was the beginning of the WETI Institute.

When asked how long we may have to wait for results from this new initiative, Scholz said, “We prefer to see each day of WETI as a ‘result’, providing us with one bit of information about the nature of extraterrestrial intelligence– they are somewhere else. The non-presence of aliens on planet Earth is as useful for science as their presence would be. We will not accept any notion that waiting is only useful if, finally, something happens. Instead, we consider waiting a fulfilling scientific method in its own right.”

So, is this a joke? Maybe. Or maybe not. “It seems appropriate to ponder the actual usefulness of WETI” says the WETI website. “Where do we come from? Where do we go? Can we have coffee in between?” Well, thanks to the WETI Institute, the process of answering these questions turns into a social experience – a global, conscious waiting process. With WETI, everyone at least knows that they are waiting. This provides new purpose to humankinds’ seemingly eternal waiting. We can all now wait with fierce determination.

If you find yourself not very adept at waiting, Scholz offered a few tips. “With our expertise, we can suggest a number of things: The long-established technique of fiddling your thumbs, for example, is a good start. You might also want to take a sheet of graph paper and fill in all the squares with a soft pencil. When you are finished, you could arrange for a nice cup of tea, just for a change. Finally, procrastination is always a valid option. Surely there is something you should be doing right now. Concentrate your energies on not doing it.”

In the words of Galaxy Zoo’s Chris Lintott, “This is both brilliant, and completely mad.”

Update: You can now join WETI’s “think tank,” the Effortless Action Committee. When you do you can receive an attractive certificate suitable for framing immediately — no waiting!


48 Responses

  1. Percy Leaf says

    Brilliant brilliant brilliant!

    Restores one’s faith in humanity this one.

    If these guys need a layman’s help, they need only call and I’ll assist with the “going out for a drink” part in any way I can.

  2. Dark Gnat says

    Hmm, I thought about signing up, but I’m going to wait until later.

  3. tacitus says

    Finally, an organization for me! Procrastination is my middle name!

    I’m sure I’ll get around to joining… sometime tomorrow.

  4. Polzer says

    Its nice to know that the art of patience is not lost in a world where scientific discoveries happen at an exponential rate.

    Well Done.

  5. Jorge says

    Oh, what would we do without comedy?

    (I can foresee a few angry comments coming up, though)

  6. edu says

    wao.
    some people just have too much time in their hands (including whoever decided to feature this article).
    I just spend 1 minute of my life =/

  7. Tyler Durden says

    Finally a scientific institute tailored to my personal strengths.

    I will wait for you, WETI!

    In fact, I think I’ll wait a while before I even post this comment…..
    ….
    ….
    ….

    ….
    ….

  8. mitkilurt says

    I like their philosophy, and would love to have a sticker of their logo for my telescope case.

  9. mitkilurt says

    I’ve made another observation, just now! Perhaps the current political administration follows this same philosophy of sit, and wait to see what happens, then act when it does, but only when they get around to it, or when it gets really, really, really bad and out of control. Sort of like what’s going now with the economy, and runaway, unrestricted greedy executives. I “can” wait to to see what happens, that’s all anyone can do I suppose.

  10. Godot says

    I’d like to help fund this organization. Do nothing further until I arrive.

    Godot

  11. bob says

    boy, am i puzzled… we’ve got life forms
    here on earth being wiped out wholesale,
    yet brilliant scientists are actively seeking
    life out there. focus your telescopes on
    africa, the amazon, … you’ll see lots of
    life there.

  12. Silver Thread says

    I have an Idea that there are a lot of Engineers from the LHC project that will be cross training, I understand their resume’s include a substantial amount of waiting.

  13. Flaming Pope says

    When I first skimmed through this I was lie- This has got to be some joke. But not a bad idea, harnessing all the untapped idle computing time in the world like some super computer, its just like the PS DNA folding thing.

    As for waiting for results… what if the ETs do the same thing? Then we get nowhere. What we should be doing is split the focus on taking the dominate role of communication and identifying (thus waiting) possible ET traffic. That way we would almost double the chance on our part of finding ETs. After all, who’s to say pulsars are not just strange ET alliance signals/symbols? (just an example, but think about it a symbol broadcast in so many different ways, assuming manipulation of warp bubbles are possible, and that the civilizations are advanced enough , ranting ranting on about example, etc.)

  14. quantum_flux says

    Waiting is worse that creating

    CETI -> Creating Extra Terrestial Intelligence

  15. Yael Dragwyla says

    Just a note on the current administration: It was President Bush who pushed to get New Horizons off the pad and headed for Pluto, and established the largest marine reserve in the world in the waters around the northern Hawaiian Islands. The previous one, under Bill Clinton and Al Gore, did *nothing* worth a damn for science, as I remember — but did push to get loans and mortgages for the poor, which is one reason we’re in the middle of a huge financial crisis now. — Be that as it may, I believe this technique of waiting has a long and honorable history, going back to the Chinese principle of *wu wei*, or, “Don’t just do something — stand there!” 🙂

  16. Member
    Gerald, Walnut Creek, CA says

    I think they’re on to something, here. Maybe we should apply the same scientific waiting approach to the search for NEOs that may impact the Earth!

  17. Maxwell says

    “This is both brilliant, and completely mad.”
    That about sums it up, altho he makes a valid point. Doing nothing sums up about everything we’ve done so far.

    The best (and only) current example of a space fairing species is ourselves. If we have not found the means or motive to visit another star, whats to say someone else will discover it?

    Even if they have, the simple numbers suggest we could be waiting a few million years for them to pass by this particular star… assuming they haven’t been here already and written us off.

    If you once landed on a planet full of disagreeable dinosaurs, you wouldn’t be going back to check on it anytime soon either.

  18. Per says

    bob says: “boy, am i puzzled… we’ve got life forms here on earth being wiped out wholesale, yet brilliant scientists are actively seeking life out there. focus your telescopes on africa, the amazon, … you’ll see lots of life there.”

    No, silly. They’re not actively seeking life out there, they’re passively seeking life out there. Jeez.

  19. Tyler Durden says

    “I’ve made another observation, just now! Perhaps the current political administration follows this same philosophy of sit, and wait to see what happens, then act when it does, but only when they get around to it, or when it gets really, really, really bad and out of control. Sort of like what’s going now with the economy, and runaway, unrestricted greedy executives. I “can” wait to to see what happens, that’s all anyone can do I suppose.”

    If only we were so lucky as to have leaders who did nothing. That would be progress!!

    Unfortunately idiots like Bush give us kneejerk reactions to emegencies that serve only to * make things worse*.

    You know, like attacking Afghanistan and Iraq after Saudi nationals performed a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

    Or legalizing torture because we really hate the people we’re currently holding.

    Or giving $700 billion to financial institutions that collapsed our economy through greed. Because god forbid his campaign contributors were out of jobs.

    Unfortunately the only time he’s failed to act was during Katrina… the one time that he needed to do * something *.

    Witnessing the collapse of western civilization is so depressing. I think I’ll go play some vidjagames.

  20. Astrofiend says

    “Surely there is something you should be doing right now. Concentrate your energies on not doing it.”

    That’s all I spend everyday doing. That’s why I’m on this site now. Sometimes I think I spend more effort on going out of my way to not do something than it would take to just get it done. Man I rule… I think I’d make a great WETI scientist.

  21. Astrofiend says

    Amen Tyler.

    Current cost to US economy of war in Iraq (not including Afghanistan) ~US$ 3 Trillion. Cost of bailing out greedy corporate high flyers – US$ 700 Billion. Lets just call it an even US$ 4 Trillion all up then. All funded by the tax payer. And with flow on effects, the tax payers in most other countries in the world. And people in the US still vote for these republican f***ers. How is it physically possible to be so moronic?

    Think of the science that could be done – the engine that drives and has always driven the improvement of everybody’s life. Think of the education and health reforms that could be put in place the world over. The hundreds of millions of people whose lives could be made manifestly better.

    Man it s**ts me that people like this exist.

    P.S – if you disagree with Tyler or myself – you are wrong.

  22. RetardedFishFrog says

    Tyler Durden should remember the great line in the movie, Fight Club, where Ed Norton’s character is trying to convince his boss that the company should pay him not to say anything about “these things [he] knows” about the company. And then he says, ~”And I don’t even have to come in. I can do this job from home.”

    I wonder if the WETI Institute is providing any grants for fellow waiters. That’s a job I could do from home.

  23. Dominion says

    I’m already part of a waiting organization. WAMES is the Wait for the Ability of Magic and Extraordinary Senses. I’m considering joining WIMPS as well. That’s the Wait for the Idea of a Mostly Peaceful Society. This one’s still fighting for recognition though.

  24. joe says

    Isn’t this what happens when you wait in the rain too long

  25. RL says

    I can’t wait to get a t-shirt and a coffee mugs. Everyone will be jealous.

  26. ANNUNAKAI says

    WAITING IS USELESS

    RESISTENCE IS FUTILE

    WE ARE ALREADY HERE

  27. ANNUNAKAI says

    WAITING IS USELESS

    RESISTENCE IS FUTILE

    WE ARE ALREADY HERE

    WE HAVE BEEN HERE FOR EONS

  28. John in Missouri says

    I’m waiting for a response from my brain on this one…

  29. ad koppen says

    WETI fits perfect in our future society, instead of doing something or take the initiative , NO, we wait and wait, we wait until your Boss is come to get you, we wait for groceries at home to maybe arrive, also we wait with sex, yes let us all wait, because of the co2 levels. begin tomorrow with WAIT.

  30. ZardozBigHead says

    And now we wait to see if our economy collapses thanks to others who clearly did not have our best interests at heart.

    Maybe when ETI do show up, they will only find crumbling remains and the surviving members of our species living among the ruins like animals.

    I wonder – are other intelligent species in the Universe as short-sighted and self-destructive as us? Or are we unique in our stupidity and greed?

  31. I love it. It’s like the Slow movement meets astronomy.

  32. Chris says

    Tyler and Astrofiend, you’re misguided. Your jaded and depressing worldview is blatant. The collapse of Western Civilization? Calling Bush a moron? It’s easy to scapegoat and predict doom. Blame does nothing. However, America is still a world superpower. At our worst times, we’re still more robust than nearly any other country out there. Even during the Great Depression, we managed to bounce back healthier than ever. Don’t put on ideological blinders then contemptuously declare that anyone who disagrees with you is wrong. All you’re showing is your elitist non-compromising attitude that betters no one.

  33. Malcolm says

    I’d like to donate some of my waiting time to this research project, namely –
    Waiting for my income tax returm
    Waiting in line at Tim Horton’s
    Waiting for a public toilet
    There’s more, do I get some kind of recognition? A badge to sew on my jacket would be nice, but no rush, I can wait

  34. mike says

    So they have finally devised a way of getting payed to do nothing… Count me in! I can wait! Im an expert on waiting! Even more so if i were to get payed for it. Infact, i’d be sooo perfect for the job, it might be hard to find others as qualified.

  35. Terragen says

    When I read this I thought it HAD to be April Fools day again. What kind of joke is this? This is where humanity has come. I think the world is ending BEFORE 2012 people…

  36. mathieu van leeuwen says

    Bob’s right!
    All the life here on Earth that is wiped out…
    WETI is dumb late romanticism.

  37. Joe Shobe says

    Sorry, I can’t wait any longer. Let’s go find some extraterrestrial unintelligent life nearby and teach it something.

  38. Shawn says

    My sense of irony was handling this whole thing okay until I got to this bit…

    “Tyler Durden says

    *lots of things which I mostly agree with*

    Witnessing the collapse of western civilization is so depressing. I think I’ll go play some vidjagames.”

    I think your namesake would want you to make some popcorn and relax in the La-Z-Boy to witness that!

    That’s my plan at this point, anyway.

  39. Tyler Durden says

    “Don’t put on ideological blinders then contemptuously declare that anyone who disagrees with you is wrong. All you’re showing is your elitist non-compromising attitude that betters no one.”

    What’s wrong is wrong.

    There is no compromising with injustice, ineptitude, and murder.

    This group is a bunch of thieves, liars, and murderers and if there were any justice in our so-called democracy those who caused the death of 100,000 Iraqis in the name of freedom, the torturing of prisoners of war, and the conversion fo the US from a free state to totalitarian rule, would be facing a firing squad.

  40. Tim says

    Hmm, this started as a witty, funny refreshing change from the norm.
    Posts seems to have taken it to ….. err
    Not suprising though.

  41. Nancy Atkinson says

    I’m with Tim. Lighten up folks. I’ve had the chance to meet lots of astronomers and folks in the space sector, and they all have a great sense of humor, which I find endearing and just plain fun. Plus it was fun to write something tongue in cheek for a change.

  42. Kevin M. says

    The serious suggestion behind this funny article being, isn’t the vast scope of SETI an impossible goal? Isn’t it becoming prohibitively expensive to build experiments such as the LHC? Haven’t cosmology and particle physics hit a road block of practicality if we can’t afford to go to Mars or find the HIggs-Boson without spending the GDP of small countries? Maybe mankind is fooling itself, and it is time to look within for answers. After all, Newton and Einstein made giant leaps, not by conquering other worlds, but simply by thinking deeper into the same old world that was observable in front of their noses. The discovery of interstellar travel or time travel will happen via a pencil on paper or marker on white-board. The most fundamental discoveries happen during the downtime between explorations, in other words, more discoveries happen in the mind than in the world.

  43. it is 3 billion years which we are waiting! if any ufo could find our earth in these billions of years, had an effect on it. but there is nothing improvable!

  44. IonTruO2 says

    Waiting and waiting and waiting…duh I think we have all mastered it by now amidst the official obfuscation of these last many many years. Now is the time of ‘disclosure’ and that is not about bad science. Corso and Bob Dean and the others of serious repute have been laying out for years. Why is there still this grade 5 level posture of knowledge still being peddled?! Who is trying to prolong the denial, that we have been in contact for a long time? As Bob Dean and other have said, “they have always been here”.
    Ok Ok I’ll go and wait some more. Sad days these are and will be recorded as for all history.

  45. IonTruO2 says

    tick tick tick…..ok waiting is alot like human ‘doing’. If I return to my Buddhist clarity, I will try human ‘be.ing’. Ya that feels novel. Waiting is too much like expectation, I think I’ll try just be.ing in witness consciousness. Oh darn I’ll have to put that off..ie it’ll have to wait. 😉 cus I have to go feed the horse s, the dog, the cats, the baby…..ahhh the living world that whirled without end. No wait just the Now. 🙂

  46. Bridh Hancock says

    Like it or not, watching is waiting and doing; and thinking and wondering is action. Putting our computerized observation machines onto automatic look&see is intelligent. Who knows, but something might be coming. Who knows but while waiting, watching and wondering, something significant might come. Periferal vision is important, is as important as waiting, watching and thinking.

    I read all this and then wrote this while listening to the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and fortepianist Geofrey Lancaster played Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. A poster on my wall says: ‘Forests: a major player in climate calming’.

    Why tell you this? Truth and beauty impinge positively. What is beyond the DarkPull of DarkMatter? We can only watch, wait and wonder. It will be good.

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