Patent Number 6,593,876, "Adaptive Microwave Antenna Array," covers circuitry for combining the signals from multiple small antennas (such as backyard satellite TV dishes) to economically duplicate the performance of much larger, costly single-dish antennas. The technique allows the array to reconfigure itself automatically under computer control, without physically moving individual antennas. It has been tested over the past three years by SETI League volunteers in their Very Small Array (VSA), a research prototype funded in part by grants from the American Astronomical Society and the American Radio Relay League. The grassroots organization currently lacks funding to implement its design in the long-planned Array2k telescope, but hopes that revenues generated by the new patent can bring it closer to full-scale realization of this new design.
The SETI League's patent application was not without controversy. Educational and scientific organizations typically share their technology freely, without seeking legal protection for their intellectual property. "Let me emphasize," states executive director Dr. H. Paul Shuch, "that it is the full intention of The SETI League, Inc. to offer blanket licensing of all our designs, at no fee whatever, to all bona-fide nonprofit users, worldwide and on a non-discriminatory basis. Just as other scientific organizations have freely and generously shared their technology with us, so will we continue to make available to our colleagues anything of value which we happen to develop."
Then why did he choose to pursue the patent on his design? Shuch explains, "Simply because The SETI League (like most such ventures) is operating on the slimmest strand of shoestring. Lacking government or corporate support, we are dependent upon our members for their modest membership dues and such additional contributions as their individual finances dictate. If there is, in fact, a potential for commercial exploitation of our work, we hope that it will generate sufficient funding to allow our continued existence as a viable organization."
SETI scientists seek to determine through microwave and optical measurements whether humankind is alone in the universe. Since Congress terminated NASA's SETI funding in 1993, The SETI League and other scientific groups have been attempting to privatize the research. Experimenters interested in participating in the search for intelligent alien life, or citizens wishing to help support it, should email to join_at_setileague_dot_org, check the SETI League Web site at http://www.setileague.org/, send a fax to +1 (201) 641-1771, or contact The SETI League, Inc. membership hotline at +1 (800) TAU-SETI. Be sure to provide us with a postal address to which we will mail further information. The SETI League, Inc. is a membership-supported, non-profit [501(c)(3)], educational and scientific corporation dedicated to the electromagnetic Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.
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this page last updated 15 July 2003
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