Tuesday, March 29, 2005


16 years of seti_1

Here's another piece of lightweight pop science to distract you from the fact that an automotive post is long overdue. Apologies but please bear with me until the end of the week when I've got my grant out of the way. For those of you who don't know, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project is an arrempt to locate life forms that are, well, extra-terrestrial. The most innovative part of the scheme is that radio transmission and light pulse data from a radio telescope is analysed on individual computers using a piece of downloaded software tht functions as a screensaver. Back in August of 1999 I was intrigued by the idea and signed on with SETI. Since then I've put the colourful graphical analysis program on computers resident on both sides of the Atlantic. Last week I hit a milestone of sorts: 16 years of cpu time and in the top 0.65% of users out of more than 5 million worldwide. Indeed I've crunched more data than some countries including Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Grenada to name but a few. Now that's surely got to qualify me for someone's "Geek of the Week" competition.

Who knows where all this is going to lead. It seems there can be only two outcomes from the experiment (i) no extra-terrstrial life is detected in which case the whole thing has been a monumental waste of time, creative energy and electricity or (2) ET is detected in whch case it will probably be perceived as a threat and we'll re-enact War of the Worlds (getting hoplessly bogged down with Martian insurgents in the process) in a search for off-planet oil or weapons of galactic-destruction. Oh, don't get me started...


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