This page is about the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) organization and their distributed computing application SETI@home, why I run it, and why I think everyone should as well.
The sun is a star, one of at least 150,000,000,000 in our Galaxy. Our Galaxy is one of at least 100,000,000,000 in the universe. Assuming our Galaxy is typical, that’s ALOT of other stars!
The Kepler space telescope has proved that planets are common around every star, and analysis of meteorites have shown that the building blocks for life are quite abundant in space.
Taking all of this into account, it’s very hard for me to believe we are the only life that has arisen and become intelligent enough to make a radio.
Since Marconi invented the radio, humans have been emitting radio waves from the Earth that have been traveling at the speed of light in all directions, some transmissions have even been powerfully focused in specific directions intentfully. Anyone in the neighborhood of 100 light years (14,000 stars) with a dish pointed in our direction would be aware of our existence now.
One of the main goals of the SETI organization is to listen to the sky for this kind of leakage from all directions at the most likely frequencies, or better yet, obtain a signal that was intentionally sent our way. However we don’t know where to point our dishes or what frequencies to choose exactly, and adding to that problem, as we travel around the sun and around the galaxy the frequencies are shifted around due to the Doppler effect, there is also alot of noise to sift signals out of when we capture data for analysis. Currently we do not have the computing power to fully analyze all of the data obtained as adequately as needed with all the variables that need to be taken into account.
Enter SETI@home. This is a distributed computing project that utilizes the computing power of every day people who install an program on their computer, or app on their phone to process small pieces of this emmense data when the computer is not busy that otherwise would take decades for a typical supercomputer to process on its own.
There are several ways you can help with the search:
Aside from running the SETI@home app on your devices, you could also help out by donating, or for the more adventurous, if you have an old 80’s style satellite dish, you could setup a radio telescope in your own backyard! (Planning to do this when I retire someday)
I have been participating by running the application for almost 18 years now, I install the software on just about everything that is capable of running it, especially on my ‘always on’ devices (this webserver for instance). Please join the search today!