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The Seti at Home project

SETI@HOME introduced many of us to the concept of Grid Computing. Today this technology is being used to find a cure to COVID-19 and other research projects

The Seti at Home project

The search for extra terrestrial life is an enormous and time intensive task. Each day the sky is combed for signals coming from outer space but much of it is radio noise. Each day several a huge amount of data is being recorded and stored on tapes. This data must then be analysed to find signals which may be extra terrestrial intelligence. The data needs to be analysed and this is where Seti at home comes in.

Seti at home is a computer program which can run as a screen saver or run in the background on your own computer. It takes data from Seti at home and analyses the data. The program is looking through radio interference to isolate a signal which lasts for around 12 seconds which is around the time for which the signal would be present in the sky due to the earth's rotation. Once signals are isolated the data is sent back to sent back to the server and the next work unit begins.

The technical side

All the data is collected onto tapes and in pure form takes up too much space to send on the web. The data is split into more managable work units through around 9 machines located at Seti at home's internet site (the servers, not the documents). The data is then sent via servers to be downloaded and processed by around four million computers world wide and there is a computing power so great that the data is being analysed faster than it is recorded although due to the parsing machines being few it is not possible to send all the data out to take full advantage of this.

What makes it so interesting?

What interests me most for the software is how it works. It's impressive when you think that if you create the right program then you deleguate to the work to as many machines as are available at any one time.

Articles by Richard Azia unless otherwise indicated.

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