Friday, December 16, 2005

Alien search merges with other home projects

SETI@home is getting a boost in computer power.

SETI@home, a downloadable screensaver that lets the public donate their unused computer time to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, switches off today. But it is not going away: it is simply joining forces with similar distributed-computing projects on topics from climate models to cures for diseases. The move should boost the number of users, upping the computing power available to search for messages from alien life.

About a dozen projects are now signed up to a common software system, so that they can pool volunteers' computer time and use it more efficiently (see 'All for one'). As a result, each project should get access to more users, more of the time.

SETI@home, launched in May 1999, looks for regular or strong signals from outer space. It breaks up radio signals from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico and sends these to the computers of 5.5 million volunteers, each of which analyses a small chunk of data and sends back the results.

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