SETI@home completes a decade of ET search

May 01, 2009
SETI@home

The SETI@home project, which has involved the worldwide public in a search for radio-wave evidence of life outside Earth, marks its 10th anniversary on May 17, 2009.

The project, based at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, records and analyzes data from the world's largest radio telescope, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The collected computing power of hundreds of thousands of volunteer PCs is used to search this data for narrow-band signals (similar to TV or cell-phone transmissions) and other types of signals of possible extraterrestrial origin.

SETI@home was conceived in 1995. Development began in 1998, with initial funding from The Planetary Society and Paramount Pictures. It was publicly launched on May 17, 1999, and the number of volunteers quickly grew to about one million.

Because of the presence of noise and man-made radio interference, SETI@home doesn't get excited by individual signals. Instead, it waits until it hears a signal several times from the same spot on the sky. It takes years of observing to cover the sky the required number of times. In 2004 SETI@home collected their results to date, identified the best signal 'candidates', and used the Arecibo telescope to re-observe each of the corresponding sky locations. No extra-terrestrial signals were found, but the search was the most sensitive radio SETI sky survey that had been done.

Over the years, improvements to the Arecibo telescope have significantly improved the quality of data available to SETI@home, and the continuous increase in the speed of the average PC has made it possible to use more sensitive and sophisticated analysis techniques. Today, SETI@home continues its search for evidence of , with greater sensitivity than ever, and its hundreds of thousands of volunteers continue to engage in lively on-line forums and in a spirited competition for most data processed.

More information: setiathome.berkeley.edu/index.php

Provided by SETI@home

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russcelt
3 / 5 (2) May 01, 2009
I was a teenager during the race to the moon and a trekkie from the beginning. I've been a SETI@home member since Oct 2001 with over 500,000 in total credits. Until 2007 I could only offer my home PC. Then as a system administrator I added three servers to the grid. I look forward to the first contact.
docknowledge
3.4 / 5 (5) May 01, 2009
Aaaaaaaannnnd...they found nothing.

They did, however succeed in causing people to waste millions of kilowatt hours of electricity. Probably caused the premature failure of hundreds of home computers.

SETI is, and always has been, a method for radio astronomers to justify funding for their branch of astronomy.

(Oh, I don't know what I'm talking about? Did I mention I worked on the NASA SETI project for years? Took me awhile to realize it was largely a scam, but eventually the prevalence of aimless management did make an impression.)
DGBEACH
5 / 5 (4) May 02, 2009
Aaaaaaaannnnd...they found nothing.

Exactly. I huge waste of resources.
david_42
3 / 5 (3) May 02, 2009
This program was the biggest "virus" my last company had to deal with. It was installed repeatedly on our server farm, company desktops and laptops. It took us two years to track down the person who was installing it, partially because they had left the company but had placed back-doors into the network. He is still in jail last I heard.
Nartoon
1 / 5 (2) May 03, 2009
SETI = AGW
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
1 / 5 (3) May 03, 2009
True, AGW is by now an observable fact (see IPCC review of climatology), so has the Search for ETI's been for a long while.

The more interesting question is if, and then, we will find them or not. (Well, duh!) IIRC Seth Shostak recently predicted that by 2025 SETI would have gone through 10^6 stars with sufficiently sophisticated tools, and at that time would have an answer. (Likely the more and more sharp statistics on exoplanets characteristics permits him to do a reasonable estimate on the number of stars required.)
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
1.5 / 5 (2) May 03, 2009
Hmm. Seems to me Shostak is in the right ballpark.

Habitable Super Earths are expected from current statistics to be common, albeit migrated ice worlds becoming water worlds will be so too. (The only habitable Super Earth so far found, not confirmed, is likely such.)

So if I'm conservative and put down 0.1 likelihood for HSE, use Linkweavers model for abiogenesis from Earth time to it which gives a lower limit on 13 % likelihood for abiogenesis on 1 Gy or older planets, use the galaxy habitable zone concept to see that most ETI habitable stars will be 1 Gy older than us, I get an average of 1 TI per 10^6 stars if civilizations last 10^5 years. The average ETI species time is at least 10^5 (human age being 1.5*10^5), so it could work.

I would add 2 or preferably 3 orders of magnitude stars to be on the safe side though. Shostak seems to be an optimist.
Lord_jag
not rated yet May 04, 2009
Why is it that every single instrument that is looking for intelligent life in the universe is pointed AWAY from the earth?

Is it because we all know there isn't any here?
Scryer
not rated yet May 08, 2009
I am sorry to sound extremists in my view point but please consider - If we as a species were advanced enough for interstellar travel, would there not be a way to communicate instantaneously between 2 points anywhere in the universe?

I assume that this is possible due to over whelming data coming forward about extraterrestrials in general. I however can not prove that notion. With that being said, I do believe that it is a huge waste of resources that could better be spent in new information technologies.