17 Years participating in SETI@home

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Today marks the 17th anniversary of my joining the SETI@home distributed computing project that uses internet connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Even though now I only tend to crunch in the winter and spring I’m still doing my bit for the cause.

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Today I’m the leader of the SETI.UK team, a group of individuals who have banded together crunching work units. With over 1000 members the team has grown beyond my initial hopes and expectations.

Majestic-12 distributed search engine project

As I stopped running Seti@home on my computers in the past few weeks (due to numerous crashes caused by the new enhanced seti@home workunits) I decided to revisit some websites of other distributed projects I had bookmarked.

I am now running the Majestic-12 search engine client. I found out about this project throught a The Guardian Newspaper article. This project actually distributes the indexing of the Majestic-12 search engine to volunteer participants who install the client. Unlike the Seti@home project which utilised the unused CPU power of the computers it was installed on, the Majestic-12 client downloads a list of URL’s to visit from the Majestic-12 servers and then utilises the internet conections of volunteers to index the websites on the list by visithing them. Once the list is run through the information is compressed and then sent back to the Majestic-12 servers. This is then added to the search engine index. Of course, I have just briefly summarised the client here, so visit the Majestic-12 website for all the in-depth detail.

Running the client is makes intensive demands on an internet connection and should not be run without reading up at the website. Failure to do so could result in slow connections if you wish to run the client and use the internet at the same time for other things such as surfing the net. If you are on a capped internet connection this client may use up your capacity very quickly so be warned. I myself am on a capped service and will only use the client towards the end of the month, as my caps reset on the 1st of every month. I am also planning to only run the service at night after this month, so as to keep my ISP happy (they normally are!).

Here are some details on my contribution:

Number of URL’s crawled:

SETI@home: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at HOME

What is SETI@home?

SETI@home is a scientific experiment that uses internet connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Participants use a free program that downloads and analyses radio telescope data. The program can also be used to participate in several other non SETI@home projects.

My background

I joined the SETI@home project in May 1999 and I would run SETI@home continuously for months at a time. Since the transition to BOINC I have had short runs, often a month at a time running SETI@home and other BOINC projects around the clock. I now tend to stop crunching in the summer months so that I’m not increasing the temperatures in my very warm home.

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I am the current founder of the SETI@home team SETI.UK

Thoughts about SETI and SETI@home

I believe that extraterrestrial life must exist. The size of the known universe is such that the chance of their not being any other life but that on our own planet seems remote. I don’t know when we will discover extraterrestrial life. Given the distance between solar systems and other galaxy’s it’s hard to predict. Could be today, or maybe not for a million years or perhaps even longer.

I think that if we were to discover extraterrestrial life it would mean that we would have to rethink our attitudes towards life on a whole. With questions like “Who are we?” and “Where are we going?”.

I believe that any beacon would have to have immense power to send out a signal for extraterrestrials to receive given the distance between possible inhabited planetary bodies. Any beacon should only include something very basic, possibly some basic mathematical sequence to distinguish the signal as artificial and from something intelligent. The prospect of any spoken Earth language being comprehended is probably hard to expect from any extraterrestrial life forms.

I run SETI@home for a number of reasons. First of all, when it first launched it was one of the first projects to take advantage of the immense computer time wasted by home and office personal computers. Second, for myself to contribute to some world-wide effort. Even though my contribution is only small overall, it is still a visible contribution. SETI@home is truly a world-wide project which has brought together millions of people through the internet on a single task – the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

SETI@home allows individual people to contribute to a worthwhile endeavour in our exploration of space.