Three years in the making, SETI@home - a free screensaver that analyzesdata from the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence -- willbe available on-line for the general public on May 17, 1999. Developed atUniversity of California, Berkeley, and sponsored by the Planetary Society,the SETI@home project will allow ordinary citizens worldwide the chance toactually participate in the search for intelligent life elsewhere in ourgalaxy.
Louis Friedman, Executive Director of the Planetary Society, said, "WithSETI@home, anyone, anywhere could be the person who helps discoverintelligent life elsewhere in the universe. This is a grand experiment -in science, in technology and in society -- and a global cooperative effortat the frontiers of knowledge."
SETI@home is an innovative screen-saver program that will harness the sparecomputing power of hundreds of thousands of Internet-connected personalcomputers around the world to crunch data from the radio telescope atArecibo, Puerto Rico.
SETI@home is led by David Anderson, a Visiting Scientist at UC Berkeley,and by Dan Werthimer, director of UC Berkeley's SERENDIP SETI program. Theproject was conceived by computer scientist David Gedye.
"SETI@home is a way of harnessing all the idle computers to increase ourcomputing capacity and our chance of finding extraterrestrials," Werthimersaid.
The project's initial funding came from the Planetary Society. Othersponsors include the University of California Berkeley, Sun Microsystems,Fujifilm Computer Products, and Informix. Paramount Pictures providedfunding to the Planetary Society for this project in connection with theopening of the movie, Star Trek: Insurrection.
SETI@home will tap into the enormous power of hundreds of thousands ofpersonal computers. 400,000 people have already signed up to receive thescreensaver program once it becomes available. They range from youngstudents to retirees, and from professional engineers to newcomers to theInternet.
In the grand scheme of data crunching, SETI@home's creators think theprogram has the potential to change the manner in which SETI data areevaluated. By the time 50,000 to 100,000 PCs are involved, the scope ofthe search will rival other current SETI projects. SETI@home may indeeddetect a signal that would otherwise be missed.
SETI@home imports SETI data from the Internet and then processes itwhenever the computer is idle. After a batch of data is completelyprocessed, the computer will send it back and get a new chunk of data thenext time the user logs into the Internet.
Any interesting signal is marked in the automatic processing and will belater analyzed at the main computer site by the project scientists. If thatsignal were determined to be a candidate for extraterrestrial intelligence,it would then have to be analyzed and confirmed by independent data fromother sources before a positive identification could be made.
If such a signal is found using the SETI@home program, the person whosecomputer crunched that vital bit of data will go down in history as helpingto forever alter humanity's view of our place in the universe.
The screensaver program will show, in real time, the analysis taking placeon each individual computer and will explain the significance of eachresult. In addition, participants can view maps showing where theSETI@home project is searching and who is taking part in the project.
For more information about SETI@home or other SETI projects sponsored bythe Planetary Society, contact Susan Lendroth at (626) 793-5100 or by e-mailat [email protected]. You can find additional information on SETIon our website at http://planetary.org and at the SETI@home site athttp://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu.
Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded the Society in 1979 toadvance the exploration of the solar system and to continue the search forextraterrestrial life. With 100,000 members in over 100 countries, theSociety is the largest space interest group in the world.
Contact David Anderson at (510) 649-4708 or Dan Werthimer at (510) 642-6997.
Paramount Pictures' is part of the entertainment operations of Viacom Inc.
The above story is based on materials provided by The Planetary Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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