archive: SETI Massive Search for Extraterrestrials Begins

SETI Massive Search for Extraterrestrials Begins

Larry Klaes ( )
Fri, 14 May 1999 09:45:03 -0400





for E.T.</bigger></bigger></bigger></color></fontfamily></bold> =20

<<> ABCNEWS video =20

<bold><fontfamily><param>arial</param>On the Home Computer, Biggest
Search Ever=20


<bold><fontfamily><param>geneva</param><smaller>ABCNEWS' Deborah Wang
reports that some 400,000 people are looking for intelligent life in


(download <<>RealPlayer)


<italic>By Deborah Wang

E R K E L E Y, Calif, May 13</smaller></color></fontfamily></bold>
<bigger>=97 At the University of California at Berkeley, astrophysicist Dan
Werthimer listens for anything, any noise from space, that could be the
calling card of a distant civilization.

</bigger> =93There=92s a good chance that radio signals are going right
past this planet and we could discover them right now if we knew where to
point the telescope and what frequency to look at,=94 says Werthimer.

Because signals from other planets are likely to be faint, he uses a
massive radio telescope =97 the size of 27 football fields =97 nestled into
the mountains of Puerto Rico.

Supercomputers analyze the noises, looking for patterns that might
have originated in other worlds. But even supercomputers cannot begin to
analyze all the different noises gathered from space. So scientists are
about to embark on a project that would increase their computer power by
harnessing the world=92s personal computers connected through the Internet.=

<bold>How the Project Works</bold> </bigger></color></fontfamily>=20

Every few days, little chunks of raw data from the radio telescope are
sent through the Internet to personal computers around the world. When
the computer is on, but not in use, it sifts through the data looking for
any remarkable sounds. When the calculations are done, the computer sends
the information back to scientists at Berkeley.

More than 400,000 people have signed up for the project so far.
Scientists say it will create the world=92s largest supercomputer.

One participant is Bob Cowart, a writer. His computer runs the
program when it might otherwise be running the screensaver.

=93If I have a choice between flying toasters on my computer screen,
and analyzing some data from a radio telescope from Puerto Rico, I=92m
going to go for the radio telescope,=94 says Cowart. =93It=92s more

Lawyer Nanci Cohen runs the program in her office while she=92s making
multimillion-dollar deals. And 11-year-old Aidan McDermott has convinced
his parents to run it on the family=92s home computer.

=93If your screensaver is the one that finds the signal,=94 says
Werthimer, =93you will become quite famous. And you and I will go to
Stockholm together to get the Nobel Prize.=94=20

And while the project is being marketed as fun for participants,
there is serious science at work here. One of the project=92s scientists
believes they have the potential to get 100 times more computer power
than they could otherwise afford.=20

So if intelligent life is out there somewhere, these new connections
here on Earth may just allow scientists to find it that much sooner.=20

<bold>If You Want To Look, Too</bold> </bigger></color></fontfamily>=20

<fontfamily><param>geneva</param><smaller> Here=92s what you need to look
for E.T.:=20

A computer with 32 megabytes or more of memory.=20

10 megabytes of disk space=20

A connection to the Internet.=20

Right now, the University of California, Berkeley, SETI researchers
have released the SETI@home screensaver only for the Unix operating
system, which runs mostly on high-end corporate and university computer

That=92ll change in a couple of days. Monday, May 17 is the scheduled
release date for the Windows and Macintosh versions of SETI@home. It
takes only a few minutes to download the free software from
and then you can find out if E.T. is calling you.=20

For those for aren=92t satisfied with processing other people=92s data,
you can build your own radio telescope and join the SETI search yourself.=20

The SETI League, a nonprofit organization based in Little Ferry,
N.J., is recruiting 5,000 amateur radio astronomers to continuously
observe the entire night sky. This requires more commitment and money:
You need to scrounge an old, obsolete 12-foot TV satellite dish and buy
about $1,500 to $3,000 of electronics.=20

So far, 76 stations are operational and listening. Participants
include a patent attorney in Arkansas, a construction worker in Toronto
and a registered nurse in Mannheim, Germany. For more information, look
at the SETI League Web site:



<bold>Search for more on:


<bold><fontfamily><param>geneva</param><smaller>S U M M A R Y


biggest search effort ever for intelligent life in space begins on the
home computer. </color></fontfamily></bold>=20



<bold><fontfamily><param>arial</param><smaller><<#sidebar> Here=92s How
You Can Get Involved in the Search=20


E B L I N K S</smaller></color></fontfamily></bold>=20



<<></color>SETI League




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