After more than 20 years of letting the average person assist in the search for extraterrestrial life, the [email protected] project is going into hibernation.
[email protected] is one of the earliest examples of distributed computing, relying on volunteers’ computers to provide the bulk of the processing power. Each day the project records gigabytes of data that needs to be analyzed. Volunteers download a screensaver and when their computer is idle, the program starts working on its assigned data, with the progress displayed in the screensaver. Once the computer has analyzed its assigned data, it sends it back to SETI and retrieves a new packet to analyze.
The project is going into hibernation, effective March 31, for two reasons. First, according to the project coordinators, “scientifically, we’re at the point of diminishing returns; basically, we’ve analyzed all the data we need for now.” Second, “it’s a lot of work for us to manage the distributed processing of data. We need to focus on completing the back-end analysis of the results we already have, and writing this up in a scientific journal paper.”
Despite the current hibernation, the project is not disappearing and there is hope it could start up again.
“However, [email protected] is not disappearing. The web site and the message boards will continue to operate. We hope that other UC Berkeley astronomers will find uses for the huge computing capabilities of [email protected] for SETI or related areas like cosmology and pulsar research. If this happens, [email protected] will start distributing work again. We’ll keep you posted about this.”