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.
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.
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.
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.
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.