Gerry Harp
Director, SETI Research

Trained as quantum mechanic, Gerry found the possibilities of using the multiple antennas of the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) to generate beams on the sky – beams that could be far smaller than any single antenna could produce – remarkably exciting. Lured to the SETI Institute by this instrument’s intriguing possibilities, he’s undertaken many studies on beam formation (for SETI research). These include the Array’s ability to produce “negative” beams – useful for cancelling out, or “rejecting”, signals from such man-made noise makers as telecommunications satellites and the on-site, observatory computers.

For Gerry, SETI searches, and trying out new ideas on how signals might be encoded, is all exciting stuff. And while a SETI detection is a dramatic prospect, he points out that the ATA will really push the envelope for radio astronomy too. It’s not just a new instrument for cosmic research; it’s revolutionary. Lately, he has turned to the problem of making images with radio data, and he's very interested in "imaging SETI," which can extract thousands of times as much information from our radio telescope than more conventional SETI processing. This will speed up the SETI search by a similar factor.

Gerry is a late-comer to astronomy, having started his career in surface physics and thin film magnetism. He has expertise in semiconductors, magnetic materials, and low dimensional systems. In this part of his carrer, he learned a great deal about quantum mechanics, diffraction and hologrphy, and his thesis topic was on the development of a new kind of electron holograpy to obtain 3D pictures of atoms. Nowadays, making pictures of atoms is relatively easy thanks to the Scanning Tunneling Microscope.

Gerry spends free time learning as much as he can about quantum mechanics and, since joining the SETI Institute, gravitation. Einstein's theory of general relativity is not consistent with quantum mechanics even in some very simple thought experiments. He thinks that very soon some astronomical measurements will allow us to probe this inconsistency, and he's looking forward to that.