November 18, 2017 ... Central U.S. Time

SETI@Home

Posted or updated 11.16.08 by Glenn Miller

Back in May 1999, Bill Lamb sent me a link to a Web site called the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence at Home (SETI@Home).  This is a project to have home computer users assist with crunching data collected by the giant radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico.  Since the project didn’t have the resources to fund a megacomputer to do the work, they’d come up with a way to slice up the data, send it out to home computer users where a small program on the computer would process the data and send it back to the project.

The project is headquartered at the University of California at Berkeley and was one of the first (if not the first) to use this distributed computing capability among home computer users that’s been made possible by the Internet.

Through several iterations, SETI@Home users have processed over 37 billion “work units” and currently has over 900,000 users running over 2 million computers (I think each processor in a multi-processor computer counts as a separate computer).  Five million users in 226 countries have participated in the project, contributing 2 million years of computer time.

SETI@Home transitioned to a program called Berkeley Open Interface for Network Computing (BOINC) which allows home users to choose from several distributed computing projects other than SETI.

My computer has an Intel Dual-Core 3-GHz processor and it processes a standard work unit in about 4 hours.  With a dual processor, you can look at it as processing two units in 4 hours or average 2 hours per unit.

Recently, SETI@Home started sending out Astropulse units to be processed.  The regular work units search for continuous narrow band signals in the radio spectrum (the next “Wow” signal).  Astropulses are, as the name implies, pulsed signals that would indicate intelligent origin.

The AP work units are large and take approximately 80 hours for my 3-gig processor to finish.

Running 24/7/365, to date, my various computers since May 1999 have processed over 295,000 work units (255.13 quadrillion floating-point operations) and devoted well over 36,000 hours to the project.

And the project continues.

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Glenn Miller

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