SETI Gets A Boost

The largest radio telescope in the world (the solar system, and maybe the galaxy) has added seven new receivers. Along with that comes an increase of about 500 times in the data flow through their system.

New, more sensitive receivers on the world’s largest radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and better frequency coverage are generating 500 times more data for the project than before, project leaders said in a release. SETI@home software has been upgraded to deal with this new data as the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) enters a new era and offers a new opportunity for those who want to help find other civilizations in the universe.

SETI at home? Oh yes! This software uses otherwise unused processing cycles when your computer is quiescent to help crunch these data. Apparently, they can use your help!

The longest-running search for radio signals from alien civilizations is receiving 500 times more data from an upgraded telescope and better frequency coverage than project planners anticipated, meaning the SETI@home project is in dire need of more desktop computers to help crunch the data.

Since SETI@home launched eight years ago, the project based at the University of California, Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory has signed up more than 5 million interested volunteers and boasts the largest community of dedicated users of any Internet computing project: 170,000 users on 320,000 computers.

No, I don’t think they will succeed. Without any evidence at all, my supposition, based on Fermi’s Paradox, is that the odds against SETI (or anyone else) finding someone out there to communicate with are substantially less than we’d like to believe. Still, it’s a good thingTM to look, and a negative result is often more valuable in science than a positive one.

And if you’re looking to donate even more processing cycles to something larger than yourself, then Cosmology@Home offers yet another opportunity, coming soon!

The goal of Cosmology@Home is to search for the model that best describes our Universe and to find the range of models that agree with the available astronomical and particle physics data. In order to achieve this goal, participants in Cosmology@Home (i.e. you!) will compute the observable predictions of millions of theoretical models with different parameter combinations. We will use the results of your computations to compare all the available data with these models. In addition, the results from Cosmology@Home can help design future cosmological observations and experiments, and prepare for the analysis of future data sets, e.g. from the Planck spacecraft.Each work package simulates a Universe with a particular geometry, particle content, and “physics of the beginning.” It produces predictions of the observable properties of the Universe which we can then compare to:

1) the fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background (observed from space by the WMAP and soon the Planck spacecraft, as well as from ground based and balloon based experiments),
2) the large scale distribution of galaxies and clusters of galaxies,
3) measurements of the current expansion speed of the Universe by the Hubble space telescope,
4) the acceleration of the Universe as measured by observations of supernova explosions,
5) observations of primordial element abundances in distant gas clumps, and
6) gravitational lensing data, when it becomes available.

Cool!

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