Thursday, February 12, 2009

SETI progress

I was wondering if the recent finding of hints of life on Mars has instigated a resurgence of interest in the Search for ExTraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). I used to run SETI@home, and I really should be doing something with my extra available computational power, and am considering running the Linux version on my home computer. SETI@home, if you don't know, just uses your idle computer power to search through radio telescope signals for any sign of signals with an intelligent origin.
I didn't see any evidence that things at SETI have picked up, however, while poking around, here are some of the more interesting things that I did not know about SETI:
-An answer, much more complicated that you might think, about how much of the sky SETI has covered.
-The radio telescope data is collected using the Arecibo Observatory. As featured in the movie (and N64 game) GoldenEye. It looks awesome but may soon be essentially shut down. (we have mentioned SETI's financial woes before.)
-Apparently if they find aliens they will make the news public. I wonder if that would actually happen in practice. ?
I would have liked to see a calculation on what they have searched and work this into a probability of intelligent life in our galaxy. Anything has got to be better than the Drake equation. Unfortunately, it would anticlimactic to have this number continually decrease as the search continues.
Perhaps I should devote my CPU time to something that has a garentee of being produtive. Folding@home, where disrubuted computing is used to simulate folding of proteins, has an amazing track record.