Space. The great beyond. Are we alone in the galaxy? Researchers at the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, have pondered the question for years. Drawing on high-powered radio telescopes, SETI has been scanning the stars for years, searching for answers to the questions that our existence poses. While the search has relied upon private funding and dedicated researchers for years and years, they’ve created an opportunity to help the search from the courtesy of your own home.A program was created by the researchers to help coordinate data analysis, which they dubbed SETI@home. The program is a client which can be downloaded from the website http://setiathome.berkeley.edu and it allows armchair scientists a chance at discovering rogue signals from alien galaxies. Self-governing, the program downloads chunks of data that were picked up by SETI’s telescopes and analyzes it for any possible anomalies. Launched in May of 1999, the program has seen much success as a means for processing large chunks of data. Functioning like a virtual supercomputer, the processing power used on a day-to-day basis for scanning the skies is enormous. Over 5.2 million people have participated in the program worldwide, contributing over two million years of computing time collectively. As of April 17th of 2006, the processing power of the computers linked to SETI@home rests at around 250 Teraflops. By comparison, the strongest supercomputer in the world, Blue Gene, can process 280 Teraflops, slightly more than the SETI network. There are plenty of dedicated individuals giving their computer’s processing power to the site.In addition to computing and analyzing the data for SETI, the program also functions as a neat screen saver that allows you to see the progress that your data analysis makes with a colorful representation of your findings. You can even set the program to only use processing power while the screen saver function is on, allowing your processing power to be unaffected while you’re actually using the computer. The program detects and discards interference signals and uploads its findings to a gigantic database of analyzed data located at Berkeley. While no alien life forms have been found as of yet, dedicated users continue to plug away at the data, hoping for a day when their search yields the ultimate results.
Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, researchers