Sunday, September 23, 2018

About the SETI Institute

The mission of the SETI Institute is to explore, understand and explain the origin and nature of life in the universe and the evolution of intelligence.

About the SETI Institute

What is life? How does it begin? Are we alone?

 These are some of the questions we ask in our quest to learn about and share the wonders of the universe.

 At the SETI Institute we have a passion for discovery and for passing knowledge along as scientific ambassadors.

 The SETI Institute is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit scientific research institute headquartered in Mountain View, California. We are a key research contractor to NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and we collaborate with industry partners throughout Silicon Valley and beyond.

 Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute employs more than 130 scientists, educators, and administrative staff. Work at the SETI Institute is anchored by three centers: the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe (research), the Center for Education and the Center for Outreach.

 The SETI Institute welcomes philanthropic support from individuals, private foundations, corporations and other groups to support our education and outreach initiatives, as well as unfunded scientific research and fieldwork.

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)

SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is a scientific effort to discover intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, primarily by attempting to discover radio signals that indicate intelligence. Cornell astronomer Frank Drake is credited with being the first to "listen" for intelligent signals with a radio telescope in 1960. Although NASA has funded some study in the past, current efforts are privately funded, in part by Arthur C. Clarke, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Intel founder Gordon Moore, and Hewlett-Packard cofounders David Packard and William Hewlett.

The SETI Institute's Project Phoenix is using computers to search about 1,000 stars within 200 light-years of our solar system for radio signals beamed toward us or any other location. Project Phoenix's 140-foot radio telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia aims at one star at a time while astronomer-monitored computers search each 1,000 band from 1,000 to 3,000 MHz for a signal limited to a narrowband range. Scientists believe that a signal focused within a narrow frequency band would suggest an intelligent source.

About two-thirds of the first 1,000 stars have been searched with no success yet reported. There are, however, over 400 billion stars in our own galaxy so the study may last quite a long time. The directors of the project are soliciting volunteers to help analyze the radio telescope data at their home computers.

distributed computing

Distributed computing is a model in which components of a software system are shared among multiple computers to improve efficiency and performance. 

According to the narrowest of definitions, distributed computing is limited to programs with components shared among computers within a limited geographic area. Broader definitions include shared tasks as well as program components. In the broadest sense of the term, distributed computing just means that something is shared among multiple systems which may also be in different locations. 

In the enterprise, distributed computing has often meant putting various steps in business processes at the most efficient places in a network of computers. For example, in the typical distribution using the 3-tier model, user interface processing is performed in the PC at the user's location, business processing is done in a remote computer, and database access and processing is conducted in another computer that provides centralized access for many business processes. Typically, this kind of distributed computing uses the client/server communications model.

The Distributed Computing Environment (DCE) is a widely-used industry standard that supports this kind of distributed computing. On the Internet, third-party service providers now offer some generalized services that fit into this model.

Grid computing is a computing model involving a distributed architecture of large numbers of computers connected to solve a complex problem. In the grid computing model, servers or personal computers run independent tasks and are loosely linked by the Internet or low-speed networks. Individual participants may allow some of their computer's processing time to be put at the service of a large problem. The largest grid computing project is SETI@home, in which individual computer owners volunteer some of their multitasking processing cycles (while concurrently still using their computer) to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project. This computer-intensive problem uses thousands of PCs to download and search radio telescope data.

There is a great deal of disagreement over the difference between distributed computing and grid computing. According to some, grid computing is just one type of distributed computing. The SETI project, for example, characterizes the model it’s based on as distributed computing. Similarly, cloud computing, which simply involves hosted services made available to users from a remote location, may be considered a type of distributed computing, depending on who you ask.

One of the first uses of grid computing was the breaking of a cryptographic code by a group that is now known as That group also describes its model as distributed computing.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

synchronous groupware

Synchronous groupware is programming that enables real-time collaboration among geographically-distributed work group members. Synchronous groupware typically includes file transfer, chat, shared whiteboard, application sharing, voice, and video. In comparison, asynchronous groupware enables people to collaborate remotely, but not necessarily at the same time.

A study group from the University of Canberra in Australia evaluated the differences between synchronous and asynchronous groupware. They used Lotus Notes (an asynchronous product) for several months, after which they used Microsoft NetMeeting and AussieMOO (both synchronous products). They found that synchronous groupware meetings required a degree of organization that wasn't necessary for asynchronous work. Because work group members had to "attend" the meeting all at the same time, synchronous work demanded punctuality, whereas an asynchronous group could catch up with the project and respond to messages on their own time. The study group also found that managing the meeting was crucial, for example insisting that a single topic be adhered to at any given time in order to make the discussion easier to follow. Although the group found that the synchronous system made more demands on participants, it also led to more dynamic interaction, more quickly resolved issues, and shorter work periods.


Groupware refers to programs that help people work together collectively while located remotely from each other. Programs that enable real time collaboration are called synchronous groupware. Groupware services can include the sharing of calendars, collective writing, e-mail handling, shared database access, electronic meetings with each person able to see and display information to others, and other activities. Sometimes called collaborative software, groupware is an integral component of a field of study known as Computer-Supported Cooperative Work or CSCW.

Groupware is often broken down into categories describing whether or not work group members collaborate in real time (synchronous groupware and asynchronous groupware).

Some product examples of groupware include Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, both of which facilitate calendar sharing, e-mail handling, and the replication of files across a distributed system so that all users can view the same information. Electronic "face-to-face" meetings are facilitated by CU-SeeMe and Microsoft NetMeeting.

Small Office Home Office (SOHO)

In information technology, SOHO is a term for the small office or home office environment and business culture. A number of organizations, businesses, and publications now exist to support people who work or have businesses in this environment. The term "virtual office" is sometimes used as a synonym.

telecommunications (telecom)

Telecommunications, also known as telecom, is the exchange of information over significant distances by electronic means and refers to all types of voice, data and video transmission. This is a broad term that includes a wide range of information transmitting technologies such as telephones (wired and wireless), microwave communications, fiber optics, satellites, radio and television broadcasting, the internet and telegraphs.

A complete, single telecommunications circuit consists of two stations, each equipped with a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter and receiver at any station may be combined into a single device called a transceiver. The medium of signal transmission can be via electrical wire or cable (also known as "copper"), optical fiber, electromagnetic fields or light. The free space transmission and reception of data by means of electromagnetic fields is called wireless communications.

Types of telecommunications networks
The simplest form of telecommunications takes place between two stations, but it is common for multiple transmitting and receiving stations to exchange data among themselves. Such an arrangement is called a telecommunications network. The internet is the largest example of a telecommunications network. On a smaller scale, examples include:

Corporate and academic wide-area networks (WANs)
Telephone networks
Cellular networks
Police and fire communications systems
Taxi dispatch networks
Groups of amateur (ham) radio operators
Broadcast networks
Data is transmitted in a telecommunications circuit by means of an electrical signal called the carrier or the carrier wave. In order for a carrier to convey information, some form of modulation is required. The mode of modulation can be broadly categorized as either analog or digital.

In analog modulation, some aspect of the carrier is varied in a continuous fashion. The oldest form of analog modulation is amplitude modulation (AM), which is still used in radio broadcasting at some frequencies. Digital modulation actually predates analog modulation; the earliest form was Morse code. Modern telecommunications use IPs (internet protocols) to carry data across underlying physical transmissions.

Telecommunications service providers
Telecommunications systems are generally run by telecommunications service providers, also known as communications service providers. These providers historically offered telephone and related services and now offer a variety of internet and WAN services, as well as metropolitan area network and global services.

In many countries, telecom service providers were primarily government owned and operated, but that is no longer the case, and many have been privatized. The International Telecommunication Union is the United Nations agency that administers telecommunications and broadcasting regulations, although most countries also have their own government agencies to set and enforce telecommunications guidelines. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission is the primary regulatory agency.

Within the large umbrella of companies that provide different types of telecommunications services are internet service providers, wireless service providers, radio and television broadcasters, cable companies, satellite television providers and managed service providers.

The word telecommunications comes from the Greek prefix tele, which means distant, combined with the Latin word communicare, which means to share.

virtual organization

A virtual organization or company is one whose members are geographically apart, usually working by computer e-mail and groupware while appearing to others to be a single, unified organization with a real physical location.


Telecommuting and telework are synonyms for the use of telecommunication to work outside the traditional office or workplace, usually at home (SOHO) or in a mobile situation. According to one study, telecommuting has been growing at 15% a year since 1990 in North America. 80% of Fortune 1000 companies are likely to introduce it within the next two to three years. Although work at the company premises is not likely to disappear, new forms of telecommunication such as voice and picture communication and groupware are likely to make telecommuting more social in the future.

Factors that will continue to affect the future of telecommuting include the availability of bandwidth and fast Internet connections in a given country; social methodologies for balancing work control and work freedom; the perceived values and economies in telecommuting; and the opportunities and need for working collaboratively across large distances, including globally.

With the arrival of the Internet and the Web as a kind of "standard" for groupware, one can join a virtual organization to access resources developed for members who work almost entirely through telecommunication with an occasional face-to-face meeting.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Google Assistant

Google Assistant is Google's voice assistant AI for Android devices. It provides a virtual personal assistant experience through a natural language speech interface to perform a variety of tasks.

Examples of how Assistant can be used include the following:

Pull up a boarding pass at an airport to speed up the check-in process.
Retrieve a summary of exercise activity (i.e. miles walked or calories burned).
Receive news updates.
Check current traffic conditions and follow navigation instructions via Google Maps.
View current weather conditions.
See updates on sporting events.
Set reminders and alarms.
Find information about restaurants, concerts, movies, or other attractions.
Answer questions via Google search.
Integrate home automation with Google Home.

As a voice assistant, Google Assistant adds two-way conversation abilities to Google's earlier assistant service, Google Now, which is a web and text-based service. Assistant uses cognitive computing, machine learning and voice recognition technology.

Assistant's development began in 2016 and was intended for use with Google's Allo messaging app and Google Home smart speaker. Aside from typical tablets, smartphones and notebooks, Assistant was also built into Android Wear 2.0 for wearable technology, with Android TV and Android Auto integration to follow. According to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Assistant was designed to be a conversational and interactive experience, and "an ambient experience that extends across devices."

Other digital assistants on the market include Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Google Now and Microsoft's Cortana.

Google Duplex

Google Duplex is an artificial intelligence (AI) chat agent that can carry out specific verbal tasks, such as making a reservation or appointment, over the phone. Duplex, which uses natural language understanding (NLU) and natural language generation (NLG) to carry on a two-way conversation, incorporates interjections and pauses in such a lifelike manner that someone listening in could easily mistake a human-to-computer transaction for a human-to-human conversation.

Duplex is built on a recurrent neural network (RNN) using TensorFlow Extended, a general purpose machine learning platform used at Google. The Duplex system is designed to carry out tasks autonomously but has the ability to signal a human operator should the program not be able to complete the task at hand.

Duplex was unveiled at Google I/O 2018 along with the rebranding of Google Research to Google AI.  Duplex's voice interface is so realistic that it has been criticized for creating an uncanny valley user experience. In response, Google announced it intends to include a built-in disclosure feature that will alert humans when they are speaking to an artificial intelligence agent and is now describing Duplex as an "automated booking service." 

Monday, September 3, 2018

How to deal with sihr (magic/witchcraft)

Medical treatment is of benefit when the appointed time has not yet come, and Allaah decrees that His slave should be healed. The same applies in the case of one who has been affected by sihr; Allaah may decree that he should recover, or He may not decree that, as a test and a trial, or for other reasons which are known to Allaah. Among those reasons may be the fact that the one who is treating him does not have the right treatment for this problem. It was narrated in a saheeh report that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “For every disease there is a medicine, and if that medicine is applied to the disease, he will recover by Allaah’s Leave.” And he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah has not sent down any disease but He has also sent down the cure; the one who knows it knows it and the one who does not know it does not know it.” 

Excerpt from: How to deal with sihr (magic/witchcraft)

Majmoo’ Fataawa wa Maqaalaat Mutanawwi’ah li Samaahat al-Shaykh al-‘Allaamah ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him), p. 70