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Space Science

SETI to Upgrade Software, Telescope 246

Posted by Hemos
from the stepping-up-to-the-future dept.
Professor_Quail writes " reports that SETI@home is planning to transfer it's operations from Arecibo to another telescope in Australia, where they say lies an increased chance of finding extra-terrestrials. The Australian telescope is more powerful, with a wider view of the sky; scientists are betting that this new telescope will also help find signs of 'shriveling' black holes."
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SETI to Upgrade Software, Telescope

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Take me to your leader
  • by N Monkey (313423) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @03:16AM (#4372265)
    Parkes is the radio telescope that stared in the movie "The Dish" which describes when it was used to receive the transmissions of the first moon landing.
    • As for The Dish [] - it's a very nice movie if you can locate it. Patrick Warburton and Sam Neill star, and it's a fine example of rural Australian culture and personalities (as opposed to the rather Hollywood-ized films like "Crocodile Dundee", or the self-caricature of the Croc Hunter...)
      I visited Parkes earlier this year and believe me, they don't let you forget for a SECOND that The Dish was filmed there! "As Seen in The Dish" signs abound for miles around the place. Of course, the filming was probably the biggest thing to happen in Parkes since the moon landing itself...
    • And their website is here [].
    • Parkes Observatory Homepage [] (does not mention SETI yet, at least not prominently)
    • Not actually Parkes (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Smoulderer (609849)
      Actually, it was the dish at nearby Honeysuckle Creek which actually received the transmissions from the first moon landing, but the directors of "The Dish" thought that the Parkes telescope looked better or made a better story, or something...

      Read [] a fairly accurate review of the movie.

      • by jmauro (32523)
        The both recieved transmissions from the first moon landing, but the dish at Huneysuckle Creek was not the right size to receive television pictures all that well. The first pictures were from Goldstone in California and Honeysuckle Creek, (switching between the two to find the best picture) but after Parkes came into view seven minutes into the broadcast, all the pictures came from Parkes.
    • from the dish...

      It turns out it's the largest radio telescope in the southern hemisphere.

      What's it doing in the middle of a sheep paddock?

      The Americans spend billions of dollars to let us watch a man walk on the moon and in the end it falls to you blokes. How do you feel about that?

      A lot better before you opened your trap.

      sums things up quite nicely I think. baa!
    • Can you really say that a telescope stares? Perhaps because it typically is fixed, but it is a tool so it doesn't really look. It just allows us to look.
  • It seems like if we're looking for aliens, the last place we'd like to look is in the middle of a black hole.

    Then again, there seems to be some incentive to move to another continent just to look back into space, so they must know something I don't ...
    • by WheelDweller (108946) <WheelDweller@gm a i l .com> on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @03:45AM (#4372317)

      "It seems like if we're looking for aliens, the last place we'd like to look is in the middle of a black hole. "

      Well, you see black holes compress matter- it's like a thick-spot in space, since a mass the size of Jupiter can fit into the size of a strawberry. Imagine for a moment how many thousands of alien civilizations could fit inside these black holss...

      All of them screaming, "LET US OUTTA HERE! IT'S CRAMPED AND SOMEONE FARTED!"

      Yeah, I'm sure that's it. :)

      It's probably signalling a change of just what kind of actual research-program we'll be running, but it'll look the same. One thing bothers me though: higher-res means slower conversion of the data. Instead of a year to examine a year's data, it could be decades...

      • "Well, you see black holes compress matter- it's like a thick-spot in space, since a mass the size of Jupiter can fit into the size of a strawberry. Imagine for a moment how many thousands of alien civilizations could fit inside these black holss..." Black holes are singularities - that is, a single point in space with an infinite density. Nothing can live there, as everything is shredded into it's component sub-atomic particles before they even get there. They are formed by the collapse of massive bodies in on themselves - a favourite is when white dwarfs (the still-beating hearts of dead stars) accrete too much matter and go over a critical limit (something like 1.6 solar masses. I'm not too sure on this, and my textbooks are so far away...) leading to them collapsing in on themselves and a black hole forming. You can't get closer to a black hole and return from it than it's event horizon, the surface around it where the escape velocity is >= the speed of light. Well, you can, but you won't be around to tell the tale! If a hole is rotating there is a region known as the ergosphere where it is possible to get the universes most impressive gravitational slingshot from. Even a small black hole takes around 10^60 years to evaporate. The universe is about 1.4x10^9 years old. It's gonna be a long time until the black holes start disappearing, never mind the supermassive ones at the heart of galaxies. Physics is great.
        • [Long, probably accurate discertation skipped for brevity]

          I'm told, admittedly by The Learning Channel, et al, that "each galaxy has a black hole in the center." That makes me's probably there for a reason. Yeah, I know- great place to dump the trash....but maybe it's something more. I'd like to think that perhaps they might be connected....and if we could survive the massive gravity, that would be a way around the whole speed-of-light thing, or at least shorten it a lot.

          I'll bet that won't make any sense at all in the morning. I'm turning in. Night all!

  • Would someone explain exactly what they mean by "shriveling black holes?" Do they mean ones that are giving off Hawking radiation (don't they all do that)? How else can they "shrivel?"
    • Guess I should've read the article first:

      According to Hawking's theory, "black holes give off radiation and therefore lose mass," Anderson explains. "So small black holes will basically kind of dry up and go away. In the moment of their disappearance, the theory predicts that they will give up a short burst of broad band radio radiation. Our data from Arecibo is an ideal place to look for that sort of thing."
  • ..attend to this, seti@home just looking for extra terrestial signs of life hasn't too much appealed to me(for various reasons, mainly because it's still looking for a needle from siberia, and wouldn't carry anything intresting even if some kind of sign was found, except create havoc by shaking people's minds..).

    black hole's however seem like more possible and some extra info about them could help scientists tweak their theories.. wich could lead to something intresting, creative things.

    of course, i am aware of folding@home, no need to reply pointing to it and that it has more use than some theories of space-time-continuum-and-all-things(tm), but there is also counter arguments why people don't want to fold@home(mainly on the who gets the monetary benefit which could end up being huge from the research&etc)..
    • except create havoc by shaking people's minds

      Isn't that reason enough to download the client? It is for me.
    • I run seti@haome continuously, and the main reason I do it isn't in hope of finding an extraestrial signals of inteligent origin, but to find any extraterestial signals of unexplained or unknown origin. New natural phenonia or evidence of predicted but un-observed phenomia is much more likely than an ET phone home message. the machine runs 24x7 anyways, no reason to shut Linux down each night or what ever and the internet is always on so why not cruch some data?
  • Hopefully the new software will be SMP ready like the client was, a lot of people have access to multi-cpu systems but don't have the time or patience to set up the system to run multiple instances of the program to take advantage of all the CPUs.
  • SETI future (Score:5, Informative)

    by jukal (523582) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @03:55AM (#4372337) Journal
    See the original "future directions" page [] at - which is the best source for knowing where SETI is going.

    The Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico receives information from about one third of the sky, all in the northern celestial hemisphere. But what if ET is lurking in the southern skies? The Parkes telescope in Australia is the largest radio telescope in the southern hemisphere and can observe all of the southern sky. Fortunately, SETI colleagues in Australia have agreed to colloborate with SETI@home and host a new data recorder at Parkes. Work on this new SETI@home data recorder is well under way. The new instrument will record data from 13 places on the sky simultaneously, observing 13 "beams" at a time compared to the 1 "beam" at Arecibo. We are trying to raise funds to conduct these southern hemisphere observations for SETI@home. Funding permitting, we expect the new data recorder to be installed and operational at Parkes in early 2003. For more information on the Southern Hemisphere SETI@home plans, see "SETI@home Gearing to Expand the Search" at the Planetary Society

    They also name "AstroPulse - the search for pulsars, ET, and black holes" and "To support future projects we are developing the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC)"

    There is also the planned project time line until 2005.

  • by muon1183 (587316) <muon1183@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @03:56AM (#4372339) Homepage
    and a physics student at UC Berkeley, I thought I would just provide a little more information for those of you who are too lazy to read the article. SETI@home has been collecting data at the Arecibo radio telescope for the last several years, and we have observed pretty much everything that is visible from that location. We are building a new data recorder that will be capable of observing broadband data/many independent narrow bands, and we will be using this to observe in Australia. We have also applied to re-observe any interesting locations we have found at Arecibo, using this new equipment.

    For the last several years, we have been using the data we have gathered for several purposes, amongst which are mapping the Hydrogen distrobution in the milky way and searching for SETI. We are about to start a new project that will search for broadband pulses (which must be very short in durration), which can be encoded to have a reverse dopler effect, which would be a clear sign of ET. However, a normal pulse would be a sign of an evaporating black hole, which has been predicted but never observed.

    This new project will run on a system called BOINC [], the Berkeley Open Infrasturcture for Network Computing (yes, it's open source, to be released under the Mozilla Public License). However, BOINC is not limited to running only Astro-Pulse (the previously mentioned project) and the next generation of SETI@home, but will also be running other independent distributed computing projects. More information is available at the BOINC [] and SETI@home [] websites.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      > yes, it's open source, to be released under the Mozilla Public License

      Will the whole S@H part be also open source?

      This far it has been rather questionable why S@H has been closed source. The explanations given by S@H staff hasn't hold water as there has been presented a way how many of the benefits of open source in a security sense can be accomplished without being truly open source:

      VADCOSL - Volunteer Assisted Distributed Computing Open Source License

      I remember lenghtly debate about the issue in USENET few months ago.
    • by PD (9577) <> on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @07:46AM (#4372732) Homepage Journal
      we have observed pretty much everything that is visible from that location.

      Except for the aliens?
    • For the last several years, we have been using the data we have gathered for several purposes, amongst which are mapping the Hydrogen distrobution in the milky way and searching for SETI.
      Have you tried a Google search []?
  • Dear Maude (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Graymalkin (13732) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @04:04AM (#4372355)
    Please SETI@Home developers, if you chance my reading this please consider what I have to say.

    Graphicless client. Yes I'm aware there is a command line client, it is a main in the ass to get running and have STAY running for many people. I'd like a client I can load up as a service in WinNT or a deamon in Unix that will run without my futzing with it or having to do anything but have the damn thing load from init. I think there's a slew of other SETI@Home users who'd appriciate this as well.

    Worker threads. Oh please oh please oh please in your next revision add worker threads. I really don't need the graphics run in one thread and work units processed in another. I've got a dual P3 system that is on 24/7. Half of its processing capacity is sitting idle since I don't run the S@H screen saver. The monitor is off whenever the system isn't in use so the screen saver isn't much use.

    Those two are the most important for me really. I run a couple distributed computing clients at different times but I started with S@H and have a special place for it in my widdle heart. I'm in it for the search itself, not to just have a cool screen saver. I think there's plenty of others who wouldn't mind a built for speed version of your client.

    As an aside, does anyone know if any of the S@H work units are recycled and fed into other projects like studying pulsars or radio emitting variable stars? I'm not too up on the format of S@H work units but I thought it'd be cool if astronomers studying any sort of celestial phenomenae in radio bands could recycle WUs for their own purposes, even if they don't have a big distributed cluster working on them.
    • Re:Dear Maude (Score:5, Informative)

      by loraksus (171574) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @04:11AM (#4372369) Homepage
      check out firedaemon, lets you run progs as a service under 2k / nt, also lets you assign processors per service, priorities etc
      only thing is, if the seti client can't find a wu, it quits, writes an error to the app log, firedaemon restarts it, etc etc and the app log fills up damn fast.
      firedaemon is also quite stable.
      I'm lazy google the thing :)
    • Re:Dear Maude (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > Yes I'm aware there is a command line client, it is a main in the ass to get running
      > and have STAY running for many people.


      while true
      nice ./setiathome
      sleep 3600
      • What I want is the ability to run the process as a low priority deamon. Even that shell needs to have setiathome attached to a terminal. That doesn't do me much good with a headless system that acts as only a fileserver, unless I maintain an active connection to it.
        • crontab entry:
          25 * * * * /home/samuel/seti/start-seti

          runs the start-seti program hourly (start-seti checks for duplicates before going further)

          cd ~samuel/seti
          if ! ps auxw | grep setiathome | grep --quiet -v grep

          • ./setiathome -graphics -email -nice 20 >> seti.log

          Note that standard error is not redirected. If something goes wrong, stderr output gets mailed to me by cron.

          If seti@home starts with BOINC auto-loading programs, I'd be inclined to run this under a sandbox account (if I run it at all).

    • Those two are the most important for me really. I run a couple distributed computing clients at different times but I started with S@H and have a special place for it in my widdle heart. I'm in it for the search itself, not to just have a cool screen saver. I think there's plenty of others who wouldn't mind a built for speed version of your client.

      One little tidbit I think I have to relate, regarding the screen saver:

      My pop's computer has the SETI screen saver burned into his monitor. Its not a great monitor or anything, but that has to be the worst screen saver I've ever seen: neat functions, except for the part about actually saving the screen.
    • Re:Dear Maude (Score:2, Informative)

      by eheien (94444)
      BOINC will allow for multiple applications running at once (processes rather than threads) so this solves your worker thread concern. As for your other question, SETI@home data are also being used in generating a neutral hydrogen map of the galaxy, as well as (eventually) in AstroPulse.

      Other concerns mentioned here involved the autodownloading of executables in BOINC. We're taking security very seriously in BOINC, and are using MD5 and 1024 bit RSA encryption to protect against malicious attacks, as well as other general design techniques. Finally, the issue of optimization. Since BOINC is open source, you can optimize it however you want, but there won't be much gain since BOINC itself does very little processing. As far as I know there's still no decision on whether to optimize the SETI@home science.

      For more information, you can check out the BOINC source [] and BOINC documentation []

  • by hey (83763)
    I'm pretty sure the Parkes dish was the one in the nice 2000 movie called The Dish [].
    If you haven't seen it I bet, as a Slashdotter, you'd like it.
  • by loraksus (171574)
    At least seti@home seems to finally solved their bandwidth problem. I lack a heater in this particular part of the house so athlons must do, its nice that they will run toasty just in time for fall.
    I'm running most of my clients under 2k and stopped for a time because of the problems they were having. (writing hundreds of entries to event logs [oh no! we can't connect] is a really, really annoying thing)
  • Everyone knows that the aliens have amazing scientific know-how, and are thus invisible to our primitive technology.

    We don't have anything to worry about though; they'll just come to a planet that is two-thirds water (even though they have a severe allergy to it), and try and whup our butts in hand to hand inside of using their vaporizers.

    Death by plant spray.

    Least, that's what they said in Signs [], anyway.
  • How about adding in multiple threads? (besides seperating out the graphics of the screensaver)

    I have several dual-procs at my disposal that I like to run SETI@home on, but its an absolutely hideous chore to run and manage multiple instances of the client on the same machine.

    Oh, and is SETI@home trademarked? Is the YourCableCompanyHere@Home a violation? (I'd love to see SETI get a huge widfall settlement at the "big boys'" expense.
    • Under BOINC [] there is more of a separation between the communications code and the data processing code. The data processing code is essentially a separate application controlled by the BOINC client

      The BOINC client will know how many CPUs you have, how many you are willing to use for processing, and what fraction of your CPU time you want to spend on each of the BOINC projects you have joined. Application binaries can be cryptographically signed to verify origin. BOINC will cache workunits by default, with disk usage limits set by the user. BOINC will support multiple servers. Donation credits will be based upon the amount of work done (FLOPs, int ops, network bandwidth, disk space, etc.) If one project runs out of data, or the servers go down, you machine will devote time to the other projects you've joined.

      We're really trying to address all of the lessons we learned throughout SETI@home. And, if there are some we missed, the server/client code is open source, and will be available on sourceforge. Project specific code can be open source or not as the people behind each project desire.

  • I'm still trying to find intelligent life on Earth...

    Humor aside, I'm looking forward to this move. After 2618 hours spent plugging away at Arecibo's data, it'll be refreshing to get some new data to work with. I'm of the belief that the Universe is just too damned big for us to be that special in terms of intelligent life. With our galaxy as big as it is, not to mention other galaxies beyond it, it's hard to believe that we're all alone in the great void. Bring on the Aussie telescope's data!
    • 2618? Nice, I'm up to 2794.

      However, I'm bringing several more systems online to work the data over as well, to give credit to myself =)

      I seriously can't wait to see the new Aussie telescope data, I spend a lot of time pouring over the data chunks I get out of Arecibo on my own, its really fascinating stuff.
      • I am up to 32,132 hours. Without the help of a lab or mahines at work. Currently running on my g/f iMac (slooooooow) and her mom's Duron (take that Igor, I switched it again). I think I had it on 3 or 4 machines for a month or two, but that has been quite a while ago. Most of the data is available here [], with pretty pics here [].
  • by Observer (91365) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @04:47AM (#4372427)
    "...another telescope in Australia, where they say lies an increased chance of finding extra-terrestrials."
    Most of them will be called Bruce, presumably.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @04:59AM (#4372435)
    One thing that makes me continue to run SETI@home instead of more "practical" applications like protein folding is the simple fact that SETI@home will not generate money for the originators of the project. The results of protein folding and AIDS research will ultimately result in some people getting filthy rich, and if they want that they can bloody well do the work themselves.
    • Perhaps they should offer some payment if someone happens to help find a cure for something. It's a bit strange that people are willing to help as long as someone else does not make a profit. Do people not donate to certain charities in case it results in someone finding a cure for something and they don't get any money back? Anyway, I'm sure the people at Seti@home would profit if they did find alien life. I run Seti@home but have absolutely no objections to possibly helping to cure disease.
      • Perhaps they should offer some payment if someone happens to help find a cure for something. It's a bit strange that people are willing to help as long as someone else does not make a profit.

        Perhaps they should release the cures found to the public, patent-free, so that the discoveries benefit the entire human race, instead of one pharmaceutical firm?

        If they agreed to that, I would be right there helping them along.

    • I can see the point, but ultimately it makes me feel better knowing Folding/Genome@Home are producing useful data right now and providing a wealth of information to scientists. These are published in scientific journals, I belive, thus the group need not make money from any discoveries made by outside scientists using the data Folding/Genome collected. Space research is important, but I feel should be second place to the above as just now SETI is really just stabbing blindly in the dark hoping to find something.
    • Folding@home out of Stanford and a couple other NON-commercial projects are doing very fundamental research, and will never "generate money" but do generate plenty of published research. But you're right that you do have to do your homework when picking what projects to do - you may just need to do a little more homework ;)

    • I wouldn't mind devoting some CPU cycles to protein folding, but last time I looked there were no Linux clients...
  • by PerryMason (535019) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @05:28AM (#4372463)
    It strikes me as funny that we spend all this time and money looking for something that might exist when we could use the telescope time to search for near earth crossing (NEC) asteriods, which certainly do exist and represent a much greater potential danger than little green men.

    There are essentially no searches being carried out in the Southern hemisphere at the present after the Howard government in Australia chose to withdraw all funding back in 1996.

    In 1996 the Howard Government withdrew funding for Australia's only asteroid

    tracking research project at the Siding Springs observatory in central New
    South Wales. In 1994, the SA Government announced plans for a $140 million
    optical telescope at Freeling Heights in the Flinders Ranges and a $200
    million particle detector radio telescope near Woomera, but they were not
    built. [The Age 22/9/00]

    Maybe someone could look at an Asteroid@Home option as well?
    • While I understand the need to search for near-earth asternoids (the extinction of the human species doesn't appeal to me), there should be some resources reserved for projects like SETI. In retrospect, when we think of the greatest achivements of science, more often than not we think of the advances that changed, in a fundamental way, our understanding of the natural world. I don't see how knowing that the earth orbits the sun rather than the other way around made anyone's life better at the time, but the proof of this ranks as one of the greatest achievements in human history because it revolutionized the way we thought about God, ourselves, and the world we live in.

      I think that the discovery of an extraterrestial civilization would be an achievement on par with the proof of heliocentrism. Knowing that there are civilizations on other planets would have no immediate practical consequences (we wouldn't be able to travel to their planet and meet them), but the knowledge that we aren't the only civilized species would radically alter the way that we think about the world, especially in terms of theology and metaphysics.

      What I, in my ignorance, consider to be a waste of resources is the development of new elements. This is something that has no practical value and no effect on our worldview. Creating new elements in particle accelerators must be very, very expensive, and the finished product only lasts for a short period of time. Even if they found that, somewhere down the line, element 315 is stable, it wouldn't matter because they're making these things one atom at a time. If element 315 had an atomic mass of 700, they'd have to produce something like 8x10^20 atoms just to get a gram of it. I vote that we take their grant money and use it to search for near-earth asteroids.

      • Aliens are trying to communicate with us via vibrations sent through element 315 via Quantum means?

        Of course that is all just off the cuff nonsense science, but even so who's to say that other branches of science might not yield proof of extraterrestrial existance before radio telescopes?

        As for hunting for NEO objects, I daringly propose that everyone on welfare be sent to orbiting satellites to man searching stations, and the whole welfare fund from every country used to build and maintain these stations. Then the people have some good marketable skills when they rotate off duty in a few years.
    • Whether or not it would be a better use of time, you can't use a general-purpose radio telescope for this sort of work. The best approach is a network of small optical telescopes like those run by Spacewatch []. Since the data reduction process there is pretty straightforward, I doubt there'd be a need for an @home project.
      • The Asteroids@Home bit was more of a quip at the end than a serious idea. I was talking more about the use of the telescope time, but as the poster above and yourself mentioned, a radio telescope isnt the right tool for the task, so its pretty much a moot point.

        I just get pissed off at how issues as large as the failure to search for civilisation desroyers get forgotten as easy as they do. Oh well, its not like we'd leave anyone grieving the loss of humankind.
    • Thats the theme of Clarke's "Rendevous with Rama" series, about to become a movie. 'Kill two birds with one stone' then :-)
    • SETI radio while NEC is visual. These would use different existing telescopes. They would compete for operational funding, though.
  • by 3seas (184403) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @06:10AM (#4372520) Homepage Journal
    due to the speed of light limitations, it's clear that anything we find indicating intelligent life elsewhere will be very old. And even then we can't really say, "we are not alone" but only "there was intelligent life elsewhere at one time, maybe there still is, but we still don't know that."

    And of course anything we find will be of such level of intelligence output transmission as is required to be picked up by our receivers. Meaning our receivers are limited as to what type of intelligent life transmission we can detect.

    Certainly in all that is really possible, beyond our limited science, there is a greater possibility that intelligent life elsewhere has developed their technology under different conditions and perspectives/perceptions and as such has developed technology differing enough to be somewhat incompatable and therefor undetectable to our receivers.

    Then there is the possibility that Intelligent ET life is and has been in our presence for ages, but doesn't want to be so widely known. Consider our own abilities as comparied to another animal and how such other animal cannot comprehend much that we do. Likewise, it is possible that there is such life that we too have such a level of difficulty in comprehending.

    What might be a good example of our limitations is that we have yet to openly, as a world population, recognize the limitations and inherent constraints in technology and social advancement that wrongful abstraction manipulation (deception) causes. And as such we as a population whole, do not understand the full power and potential of using such techniques in deception, which are easy to apply and safe from proof, that we can recognize such being applied.

    But if we are not alone, that there is a more intelligent life form present, I suspect that they would understand such powers of deception and use it to keep hidden.

    In short: Communication between intelligent life forms is a two way process. Anyone got proof they want to communicate with us?

    • I suppose we should have waited or proof aiplanes work before anyone ever tried it?

      Of course, if the signal is old, then it could be from a period of existence when the alien race wasn't concerned about hiding.

      Yes it is a two way process, but both side don't have to be trying to intentionally communicate.

      there is also the chance that they want to be found, or are activly looking themselves.
  • If you really don't believe in that project, you can do something would have more direct implications.

    go to and pick UD (United Devices,founded by seti@home project guy) Cancer project.

    Phase 1 has ended, now they run Phase 2. Its running as IDLE process and no problems here. (runs non stop for 97 days here I read) Only for win32 though :(

    I mean nothing is more stupid than an idle processor 24/7 while it can help something.

    Oh btw, I am not against seti@home in anyway.
  • Optimizations (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Perdo (151843) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @06:38AM (#4372574) Homepage Journal
    Take a clue from KLAT2

    "KLAT2's 80/64-bit double-precision performance is around 22.8 GFLOPS, a very respectable number. Then again, using 3DNow!, KLAT2's single-precision ScaLAPACK performance zips to over 64 GFLOPS"

    Optimize clients for different architectures. MMX, 3Dnow!, SSE, SSE2, Altivec, Hyper threading, x86-64 etc.

    Might be nice to jump from 50 Tflops/s to 150/s just by using processor specific instructions.

    Since the client will be open source, users may try it anyway but perhaps SETI could offer some kind of contest to insure the code gets audited properly.

    For programmers out there, imagine placing "Optimized code for the largest distributed computing project in the world, resulting in a threefold increase in performance" in your resume.

    Being personally responsible for adding 100 Tflop/s to seti@home beats the hell out of running clients on a few idle machines.
  • Multibeam reciever (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tconnors (91126) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @06:45AM (#4372591) Homepage Journal
    I notice that they will make use of the multibeam receiver to get effectively a 13 times increase in stuff they can look at at one time.

    I wouldn't think this would be terribly useful. When you go up into the focus cabin, and realise the 13 recievers are separated by not more than about 40cm (the dish is 64 metres across) - ie, you are looking at an area of the sky about .5 degrees across (quick back of the envelope calculation there, so to speak). What in the sky is within .5 degrees? Globular clusters and the centre of the milyway galaxy (or indeed, other galaxies). You won't find life in globular clusters, because there are simply far too many stars too close together, and life would be cooked. Same thing for the centre of our our galaxy. And since you can only see entire globular clusters or supernova in other galaxies, I refuse to believe any civilasation could produce more radiation than a supernova, so we won't be able to see anything that far out!

    Not to mention I really hate seeing such a useful instrument such as the multibeam receiver wasted on such a useless task as SETI, but they are probably (hopefully) only piggy backing on the electrons going to other experiments. :)
    • by pomakis (323200) <> on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @08:12AM (#4372824) Homepage
      The main advantage of using a multibeam receiver, as stated in the article, is to filter out noise from the Earth. If the same signal is received from different points in the sky (even if they're only slightly different), then it's almost definitely a signal that originated on Earth and is simply bouncing off the atmosphere. Being able to filter out false positives like this is extremely advantageous to the SETI program.
  • The Australian telescope is more powerful, with a wider view of the sky

    Okay, picky picky this one, but I think you mean more sensitive. We're not blasting the aliens with Ricky Martin (maybe they didn't like that, hence the move), we're listening here.

    Bigger dishes and arrays have the advantage of higher signal gain and different far field patterns (listening area shapes).

    You gotta have more gain to overcome loss of signal due to air, noisy equipment, and the like. You don't get many choices on moving a dish the size of a small town really, so you gotta move.

    Dan N7NMD/9W2DU

  • by davecl (233127) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @07:58AM (#4372779)
    Calling Parkes mroe 'powerful' than Arecibo is somewhat confusing. Arecibo actually has a much larger disk, so it can detect fainter sources (one definition of powerful). However, it gets this collecting area at the expense of being unable to steer, while Parkes can point all over the sky. The other issue is the multibeam receiver. Parkes with multibeam can observe 13 positions at once, while Arecibo is constrained to one. In this sense Parkes could be said to be 13 times as powerful as Arecibo.

    It should be noted that there is also a multibeam receiver at Jodrell Bank near Manchester. I'm not sure if this has been involved with any SETI observations.

    As to going to the south, an earlier SETI search by META found a few signals that might've been of artificial origin, but these did not repeat, so were not cast iron SETI candidates. Intrigingly, these sources clustered along the Galactic Plane. By moving the search to the south, SETI will be able to see far more galactic stars. The reference for this is: Horowitz and Sagan, 1993, Astrophysical Journal vol. 415 p.218.
  • How about a version of the OS X screen saver that doesn't crash the machine? My iBook reboots randomly while running it and a buddy of mine's dual CPU tower has random lockups with the client.
  • I haven't read all the comments, so someone may have pointed this out, but SETI@Home hit 4 million users yesterday. Pretty impressive.
  • Now they'll find even more nothing.

    - A.P.
  • CNN is carrying a small article titled, "New telescope as big as Earth itself" []about radio telecopes that cover 3 continents and work in unison to peer at the galaxy. If yer interested... read on.

  • What are they thinking?

    WARNING: Upgrades that download automatically without any user intervention? Have they gone "BOINCers?" This is a very bad idea that will create an enormous security hole. My prediction is that most businesses that currently allow seti@home will ban the new BOINC system.

    Do we really need another generic distributed computing platform like the failed or failing Popular Power, Process Tree, Entropia, Parabon, and Distributed Science?
  • Perhaps instead we should upgrade the aliens to make them easier to detect.
  • SETI can't work (Score:3, Informative)

    by SiliconEntity (448450) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @12:29PM (#4374688)
    If advanced alien civilizations existed in numbers significant enough for us to hear their radio transmissions, the probability is overwhelming that at least one in a nearby galaxy would have embarked on a program of colonization. Evolution favors organisms which have a drive to expand (otherwise they would have been out-competed). Technological civilizations inherit their evolutionary drives and will share this expansionist tendency.

    Expansion can be performed at a significant fraction of the speed of light. von Neumann machines - self-replicating, nanotech-based robotic spacecraft - can fly to a new system, make copies for exploration and colonization, and more copies which get sent off to other stars, all using local system resources. An entire galaxy or even group of galaxies can be explored and colonized at perhaps a tenth the speed of light. A million years will be enough to cover all the stars in a galaxy; a few times that will cover the local group of galaxies.

    Once a solar system is inhabited by a technological civilization, its most important goal will be to manage the primary resource, the energy production of the central star. Stars in unmodified systems radiate 99+% of their energy wastefully into empty space. A civilization will want to capture that energy and put it to work, by building a Dyson sphere or some similar structures to collect the wasted light and heat from the star. Star systems inhabited by advanced civilizations will look very different from the ones we see in our galaxy.

    The galaxy is ten billion years old. Our technological culture is no more than a few thousand years old. If other technological species have arisen, chances are statistically overwhelming that they are at least tens or hundreds of millions of years ahead of us. This means that they will have had ample time to fully explore, colonize and even modify the entire galaxy.

    The only plausible way this can't happen is if there are no other technological civilizations out there. And in that case, SETI won't work, we won't find any signals. That's the only reasonable conclusion we can draw from the fact that we live in a galaxy unmodified by technology.

    If the galaxy were so full of advanced life that SETI would work, they'd be here, and everywhere else in the galaxy, by now. Therefore SETI can't work.
    • Statistics?

      When anyone starts talking statistics when referencing outer space, I just have to cringe. So, let me get this straight, just so I understand your argument.

      1) aliens who use radio waves must be technologically advanced.
      2) Technologically advanced aliens would expand to other planets (why? what if they cannot handle weightlessness, what if they don't WANT to?)
      3) Said expansion would use relativistic speeds at all times to expand

      ergo: We would not recieve signals much before we recieved aliens.

      Now, let's look at a simple argument against your _Very_ loose logic.

      1) Space is three dimensional. Even assuming your "expansion" theory is correct, you must assume either (a) the species multiplies as fast as they expand radially outward (so that the population density is large enough that they will run into us eventually, as their expansion reaches us.

      or (b) they are targeting us as a direction to move towards. Personally, I don't find any plausibility to either of these arguments.

      2) You assume that since it only took us several thousand years to get where we are, there would HAVE to be species that evolved before us. There is no proof, anecdotal or otherwise that we, as a species are either late or early comers to the scene. I am resonably sure that to be able to withstand the change needed to create technology, some form of advanced, multi-cellular organism would be required. This requires a long process of evolution, assuming you believe in such.

      There are other problems, I won't go into them now....

      • First, a brief comment on the OP: von Neumann machines need not be nanotech based nor spacecraft- the definition and primary characteristic is self-duplication. The other two would facilitate the tasks you have in mind, admittedly.

        Perrin5, I think you're missing part of his point. He projects that a healthy spacefaring race would colonize the galaxy in a million years. This part is arguable, but if humans eventually do this that seems to me to be a reasonable estimate of the length of time required.

        As to your specifics:

        1a. I find completely plausable. Radial expansion at a constant rate is a much shallower growth curve than an exponential! Suppose that humans radically slow our population growth, so much so that the population requires 100 years to double itself. Multiplying our current population by 100 billion (very roughly the number of stars in the galaxy) would take less than 4000 years. I expect that humans (and Alien species X) would not have a problem of not enough population growth. This also could be the expected motive for Alien species X to expand.

        2. You completely miss the point, he assumed no such thing. He merely pointed out that given a rough million year timeframe to encompass the galaxy, an unknown civilization would have to be very very recent by galactic time standards for them not to already be here. If you believe his expansion timescale, the first species to achieve spacefaring colonization would be overwhelmingly likely take over the whole galaxy; it would require a huge coincidence for two species to start expanding at times close enough to overlap, given how quickly the takeover is expected to take on a galactic timescale.

    • Re:SETI can't work (Score:2, Interesting)

      by HuguesT (84078)
      OK, this is Fermi's well know argument (where are they?)

      There are a lot of assumptions in what you are writing, that's fine. The difference between simple assumptions and science is that with science you do check them.

      Maybe the aliens are indeed here? maybe they are observing us? maybe interstellar space travel is completely infeasible? maybe each and every civilisation that has even arisen in the galaxy has destroyed itself (we're not far from that ourselves)? Maybe aliens have conquered the whole galaxy and grown bored with it (now they're just having fun in some virtual world)?

      There are so many things that may have happened or never happened that it is worth it to check our assumptions. Maybe you are right, but it does not cost much money to check. This is what SETI is all about.
  • Great, fresh data (Score:2, Informative)

    by DrewK (44568)
    About time, recently restarted seti@home after a lengthy absence and the work units were dated 1999. While the project is interesting, who wants to re-analyze 3 year old data for the 1000th time.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn