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Space Science

First Pulsar Discovery By an @Home Project 70

Posted by timothy
from the turn-off-that-stupid-blink-tag dept.
pq writes "In a paper published today (abstract) in Science, astronomers are reporting the discovery of a radio pulsar in data acquired at the world's largest radio telescope and analyzed by hundreds of thousands of volunteers in 192 countries for the Einstein@Home project. This is the first scientific discovery by a distributed computing project, and specific credit is being given to Chris and Helen Colvin of Ames, Iowa, and Daniel Gebhardt of Germany." The claim that this is the first discovery to be made through distributed computing is hard to swallow; there are quite a few distributed projects out there, several of which have reported positive results, such as the discovery of the 47th known Mersenne number.
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First Pulsar Discovery By an @Home Project

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  • Folding@Home (Score:5, Informative)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @04:06PM (#33233042)

    Judging by Folding@Home's long list of results [wikipedia.org] I'd say they would also dispute the 'first scientific discovery' claim.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      I'd say they would also dispute the 'first scientific discovery' claim.

      Why would they dispute a claim that wasn't made? That'd just be silly.

      The claim was first pulsar discovery, and I doubt Folding has any reason to dispute that.

      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @04:13PM (#33233126) Homepage

        Oh wait, it was claimed in something that wasn't the Title, which I guess makes me as stupid as the submitter.

        que sera sera.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Dahamma (304068)

          Actually, even though you didn't RTF[SA], your comment was pretty much correct. The submitter was the only one who claimed it was the first discovery, period; the actual article only claimed it was the first discovery by Einstein@Home. Please take all of that massive guilt you now have and redirect towards the usual guilty parties, timothy and any submitter of an article he publishes... sigh.

      • by cygnwolf (601176)
        The excerpt in the summary reads "This is the first scientific discovery by a distributed computing project" however.
      • Re:Folding@Home (Score:5, Informative)

        by gront (594175) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @04:15PM (#33233148)
        The claim from TFMSNBCA is "The pulsar discovery, announced today on the journal Science's website, marks the first time Einstein @ Home has had a hit.". And later " The first and most famous BOINC project is SETI @ Home, which has been sifting through Arecibo data for the past 11 years, looking for signals from alien civilizations. (None has been found yet, even though more than 5 million users have been looking.)".

        No idea how you combine those two into "The claim that this is the first discovery to be made through distributed computing".

        Brain damage maybe?

        • No idea how you combine those two into "The claim that this is the first discovery to be made through distributed computing".

          Brain damage maybe?

          Idiot summary writer coupled with the typical incompetence of a Slashdot "editor".

          • by virmaior (1186271)
            the quote marks are insulted to be so close to a word combination meaning refuse pump
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by PopeRatzo (965947) *

              refuse pump

              Tell me, do you feel somehow obliged to read stories from a "refuse pump"?

              It's like the fat woman who complains how horrible the fried chicken tastes as she digs into the third bucket.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by interkin3tic (1469267)

          No idea how you combine those two into "The claim that this is the first discovery to be made through distributed computing".

          Distributed summary writing, mostly.

          • by Abstrackt (609015)

            No idea how you combine those two into "The claim that this is the first discovery to be made through distributed computing".

            Distributed summary writing, mostly.

            Two editors split the summary into three parts and each take one? That actually explains a lot!

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Hang on - "None has been found yet" IS a result. We have an experimentally determined upper limit on the alien signal density from space.

          Why do people always expect a Eureka moment?

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          No idea how you combine those two into "The claim that this is the first discovery to be made through distributed computing". Brain damage maybe?

          Just bad luck; today's Friday the thirteenth, and we all know it's bad luck to be superstitious.

      • by osgeek (239988)

        While we're on the Folding@home topic... if you've got spare cycles of your machine to donate, how could you NOT send them to Folding@home?

        Seriously, do you want to help find some fuzzy dot that is just like other dots in the sky or do you help to cure cancer, defeat aging, end diabetes, and unravel the mysteries of our biology?

        Will mankind reach the next star in 500 years? I won't know, I'll be dead if you freaks don't get to figuring out aging! We'll figure out the outer space stuff after we've worked o

    • Indeed, one might even go as far as to say F@H started the E@H project - being that F@H started about 5 years prior - so if F@H wasn't successful at all in 5 years, its unlikely that E@H would have even taken off.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        And SETI@Home started in 1999, a year and a half before Folding@Home, so if SETI@Home wasn't successful at all after a year and a half, it's unlikely that Folding@Home would have even taken off!

        Oh, wait a minute ...

    • Folding@Home has previously discovered quasars? What? Maybe next time you should work on actually reading the entirety of the headline?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MozeeToby (1163751)

        It's a bad summary no doubt (I haven't read the fine article yet) but it clearly states "This is the first scientific discovery by a distributed computing project".

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Yeah, well it's wrong. The article nor the researchers make such a claim.

          The pulsar discovery, announced today on the journal Science's website, marks the first time Einstein @ Home has had a hit.

          That is what the article states.

  • Lest we forget everything Folding@Home [stanford.edu] has done..
  • Space (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cygnwolf (601176)
    Perhaps they accidentally their claim and meant to say that it's the first stellar discovery by distributed computing? I'm fairly confident SETI@home hasn't discovered anything conclusive yet....
    • Re:Space (Score:5, Funny)

      by Midnight's Shadow (1517137) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @04:14PM (#33233140)
      I disagree. SETI@home has discovered that they can get many people to use their personal computational power and electricity to process random signals in a vague hope of discovering intelligent life.
      • by cygnwolf (601176)
        Too true. Hardly 'scientific' though, unless you consider psychology a science..... >.>
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        SETI@home has discovered that they can get many people to use their personal computational power and electricity to process random signals in a vague hope of discovering intelligent life.

        I'm surprised so many people believe there is intelligent life in the Universe.

        You certainly wouldn't find any in the broadcast frequencies emanating from Earth. And if there were aliens who somehow picked up the radio signals coming from Earth, they would think that the United States is a dystopian tyranny governed by the

        • by initdeep (1073290)

          Just imagine what they would think if they were listening to Air America..........

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

            Just imagine what they would think if they were listening to Air America..........

            That's the best you can come up with? "I know you are, but what am I?"

            Jeez, we need to get a better class of right-wing tools around here.

  • Hanny's Voorwerp (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 12, 2010 @04:10PM (#33233094)

    While not distributed computing, this isn't even the first crowdsourced scientific discovery; Galaxy Zoo discovered something so weird that people are still trying to figure out what it is:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanny%27s_Voorwerp

  • Not sure if we should be excited or be sad.
    • Excited: The first discovery based on a generic distributed computing infrastructure (BOINC)
    • Sad: Distributed computing is rather commonplace today, and plenty of people have access to scalable Hadoop clusters that can scale on demand.

    Yes, BOINC allows people to use idle computing capacity. But if we need plenty of computing capacity today, it is not that hard to get it: It is much simpler to simply rent a few EC2 machines, or get a computing grant from Google/Y

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @04:19PM (#33233190) Homepage

      Is it really sad that distributed computing is so commonplace that it's resulting in discoveries in fields as disperse as biochemistry, abstract mathematics, and astronomy? That sounds like... the opposite of sad. Something went from being new and exciting but small scale to massive and available to many, and now many more projects are able to exploit it. That sounds exciting to me.

      Sure Foldit is more interesting and exciting from the technological development standpoint. Is this some kind of zero-sum game where that necessarily means it eats up the excitement points of discovering pulsars with "traditional" distributed computing projcets?

  • Mersenne number? (Score:5, Informative)

    by TeknoHog (164938) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @04:25PM (#33233242) Homepage Journal
    A Mersenne number is any integer of the form 2^n - 1. If this number happens to be prime, it is called a Mersenne prime. The summary clearly means Mersenne primes, not Mersenne numbers.
    • by Dahamma (304068)

      The summary clearly means Mersenne primes, not Mersenne numbers.

      The summary clearly means it was posted by Timothy :)

      Though even his intended point I'd have to question... it's hard to call finding a Mersenne prime a real "scientific discovery". It's pretty purely mathematical, I'd think, as is any distributed algorithm that takes no input beyond the initial equations. Not that there haven't been actual discoveries - I just find the Mersenne prime search a pretty bad example.

      Then again, I don't even think

  • Wrong on many counts (Score:3, Informative)

    by belthize (990217) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @04:32PM (#33233310)

    First off the claim in an associated release was the "first astronomical object" discovered, not first scientific discovery.

    Secondly, even that's not correct. It's the first by a distributed project with an "@" in the name. Just because a project doesn't have @home or @thegym doesn't mean it's not distributed.

    For example the PSC (Pulsar Search Collaboratory), which probably ought to be called psc@home or some such had an earlier hit.
    http://www.universetoday.com/41006/high-school-student-discovers-strange-pulsar-like-object/ [universetoday.com]

    If they want to claim that this was the first pulsar found by a distributed project with @ in the name from Arecibo based data then they're probably correct.

    It's a cool find and a great project, don't want to come of as *completely* jaded and glad Arecibo is getting good use.

    • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @04:34PM (#33233338)

      Nothing in the abstract or the linked article makes any claims of being the first any discovery. All this is about is that this particular project had its first hit. The rest is just sensationalist nonsense from the summary writer.

    • by belthize (990217)

      Did some scanning ... that 'first discovery' bit seems to be conflating physorg, universetoday and other press releases. In some they say first pulsar by distributed project (technically but just barely correct), in some they say first scientific discover by einstein@home (correct) and in some they say first astronomical discovery by einstein@home (also correct).

      Somewhere along the line through sloppy editing this evolved to "first scientific discovery by a distributed project". Not a claim made by anybod

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Jesus Christ, get a life, stop arguing about which distributed computing program discovered something first. If the summary was bad, then it was bad. You guys need to get out more and stop being dorks.

  • Remember the guy that retrieved his stolen laptop because it kept searching for aliens even when under the thief's possession!!!
  • by dosguru (218210) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @04:50PM (#33233488)

    One of the things that wasn't talked much about in the press conference was that the software heavily utilizes the GPU over the CPU when compatible hardware exists. I meant to bring it up somehow, but I was happy to be done and off camera after an hour. Media events, while interesting, require a lot of sitting still, being quiet, and not sneezing.

    Yes, the technology for doing distributed computing is now over ten years old and I was a very early adopter. So as some people pointed out that's not new 'news' anymore per say. What is computationally newer is that the projects now don't just expand at Moore's law's rate anymore and as GPUs get better it will increase much faster for the next few years until leveling off at some new growth rate. Yes I know other things have been found, but finding a pulsar was really cool. Speaking with the scientists and science media all over the world and seeing the full international scope of this project over the last few weeks was also fascinating.

  • by pgn674 (995941)

    . This is the first scientific discovery by a distributed computing project,

    Checking all the links, it doesn't look like this claim is made anywhere. The MSNBC Cosmic Log article does say "The pulsar discovery ... marks the first time Einstein @ Home has had a hit," but that's it.

  • Prior to this, I only knew of two distributed computing projects, SETI and DESCHALL. DESCHALL was an effort in the mid 90's to prove to the government that their Data Encryption Standard (DES) was not a secure encryption type, and it was successful in 1996. 14 years before this event.

    • What about Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search? Forgot that one too?
      • by unr3a1 (1264666)

        I did forget that one. Lol. I was not in anyway trying to imply that DESCHALL was the first distributed computer discovery. It probably isn't, but it came before this pulsar project so there is no way the pulsar project is the first. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Galaxyzoo's http://blogs.zooniverse.org/galaxyzoo/2009/07/11/unveiling-hannys-voorwerp-one-step-at-a-time/ finest hour and this is a distributed computer project except with humans as transistors.

  • Back when throwing in my CPU cycles added a small to moderate increase to power consumption, I was happy to run these clients. But, the last time I checked, my gaming rig's power draw nearly tripled going from as low as I could get it (drives spun down, video idle, CPU clocked way down, etc.) to having all 4 cores and both graphics cards maxed. Nevermind the heat that comes pouring out and the noise when all the fans ramp up. It's not like the old days when loading up your Pentium 3 added an extra 20 wa

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The fight cancer at home project seems pretty worthwhile to me. And there are more projects on biochemistry, that your computer can help with. Think of the higher electricity bill as a donation to science, because that's what it is. And you're not making a donation to a foundation that's lobbying for bigger funds from the state, you're actually paying for direct work in a certain field. The ability of the population to control how money is spent on research is pretty much maximized with the @home model.
      Also

  • by noidentity (188756) on Thursday August 12, 2010 @07:21PM (#33234616)
    From the article:

    The program, which has been downloaded to 500,000 computers around the world over the past five years, almost literally turns volunteers into Einsteins at home.

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • Are you telling me they needed hundreds of thousands of computers to find a watch [pulsarwatches.com]? Geez...those astronomers are really airheaded.
  • The couple read about E@h on Slashdot and then they installed it on their computers too. Also, if you watch the press conference (available online) they DO claim this is the first discovery for volunteer computing.

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