Friday, April 29, 2011

SETI - Shutting down for lack of funds

Remember SETI? The ambitious 'Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence' program which probably was also the first of its kind public program that used distributed computing power. 

SETI program sought to use the power of millions of distributed home/office computers to process the tonnes of data that a set of radio telescopes named the Allen Telescope Array in Hat Creek, California, USA collected day in and day out. Users who had their systems connected the World Wide Web could install a small client software that would take bits of data by talking to a SETI remote server , analyse this data when the computer processor was idle and send the data back to the central server.

What's disheartening is that the program is being stalled due to lack of funds. Started way back in 2007, the array of 42 radio dishes scanned deep space for possible signals that are indicative of communication from intelligence life. The SETI institute itself was founded in 1984 with NASA funding.

The $50 million array was built by SETI and UC Berkeley with a $30 million donation from Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, being the biggest chunk of money. Operating the dishes costs about $1.5 million a year, mostly to pay for the staff of eight to 10 researchers and technicians to operate the facility.An additional $1 million a year is needed to collect and sift the data from the dishes.

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