Global distributed computing power shared the ancestors in search of aliens for nearly 21 years, everything is in vain?

There is a good chance that aliens exist, but humans should not actively look for them, and the real challenge is to figure out what aliens look like. Hawking said in his lifetime. In 1999, the University of California, Berkeley launched a “crowdfunding” global idle computing force to analyze electromagnetic signals for alien seeking SETI@home (Search for ExtraTerrestrial At Home, at home to explore alien civilizations).

SETI@home has been going on for nearly 21 years, but there is no conclusive evidence of the existence of aliens worldwide. Not long ago, the world’s largest and most influential distributed computing project officially announced that, as of March 31, 2020, no new computing tasks will be issued to participants, and the project will officially enter hibernation.

Global distributed computing power shared the ancestors in search of aliens for nearly 21 years, everything is in vain?

SETI and SETI@home

This history of exploring extraterrestrial wisdom dates back to the 1960s:

In 1960, mankind began to receive and analyze various possible radiowaves from space, hoping to find clues about extraterrestrial civilization;

In 1971, NASA called on astronomers to search for SETI signals and proposed the Telescope Forest project to build a huge array of 1,000 radio telescopes. , using advanced equipment such as radio telescopes to receive electromagnetic waves from the universe, from which to analyze regular signals, so as to discover extraterrestrial civilization;

In 1984, the SETI Institute, a non-profit research organization in California, was established by NASA and the National Science Foundation’s main research contractor;

In October 1992, two radio telescopes began searching the night sky in Puerto Rico and California for signals that might have come from extraterrestrial civilizations.

The radio telescope referred to above refers to the basic equipment for observing and studying radio waves from celestial bodies, including directional antennas for the collection of radio waves, high-sensitivity receivers that amplify e-signals, information recording, processing and display systems, etc., to measure the intensity, spectrum and polarization of celestial radio.

It is worth mentioning that the “four great discoveries” in astronomy in the 1960s – pulsars, quasars, cosmic microwave background radiation, and interstellar organic molecules — are all associated with radio telescopes.

However, in the 1980s, researchers began to realize that the biggest bottleneck in the search for alien electromagnetic signals was not radio telescopes, but the vast amounts of data scanned and recorded using computers to analyze them.

The Arecibo Radio Telescope, the world’s second-largest single-gauge radio telescope, gets at least 300Giga grams of data a day, so the computer CPU simply doesn’t have enough.

Based on this, in 1995, david Gedye, a computer scientist, opened his brain: If PCs around the world were connected to the Internet to create a virtual supercomputing, could it help SETI find extraterrestrial intelligence?

At the time, the concept of a distributed supercomputing might sounded a bit mysterious, but over the next four years, David Gedye and his collaborator, computer scientist David Anderson, developed software called SETI@home to make the brain hole a reality, and the project was officially launched on May 17, 1999.

Global distributed computing power shared the ancestors in search of aliens for nearly 21 years, everything is in vain?

By 2017, SETI@home projects had attracted more than 9 million people from almost all countries around the world.

The operation process is also very simple – the user registered and logged on to the official website, after receiving the task, just download a screensaver program, the computer will automatically receive data, filter out satellite and ground radio waves and other noise, find possible anomalies, return to the researchers.

The image below is a screensaver version of SETI@Home,” in which the colorful parts represent the signals collected by radio telescopes as they scan the universe.

Global distributed computing power shared the ancestors in search of aliens for nearly 21 years, everything is in vain?

The radio signals analyzed by users are understood to have come from three observatories, the Green Bank Telescope in Virginia, the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico and the Low-Frequency Array in Europe.

Within months of the project’s launch, SETI@home became a global sensation, with more than 2.6 million people in 226 countries using residual computing power to analyze the vast amount of data generated by radio telescopes at a total speed of about 25 trillion times per second, more than twice the amount of computing power that was the best in the world at the time, and SETI@home called “the most successful public engagement project of all time” by the Planetary Society.

In fact, SETI@home help solveone of the greatest challenge sylweding extraterrestrial intelligence, Noise.

Radio signals from extraterrestrial life may be very weak due to interference by astrophysical phenomena such as satellites, television stations and pulsars. And each person contributes their idle computing power, which means being able to process more data and more sensitive lying of more signals, thus successfully finding useful signals floating in the vast ocean of radio junk.

The greatest achievement of SETI@home was the three-time observation of the SHGb02-14a power supply, with a signal frequency of 1420 MHz, which is roughly somewhere in the sky between Pisces and Aries, a signal announced on September 1, 2004.

SETI@home, why sleep?

So, why do SETI@home sleep? In fact, the official gave a very clear explanation on this issue.

Global distributed computing power shared the ancestors in search of aliens for nearly 21 years, everything is in vain?

On the one hand, from a scientific point of view, the project is already in the declining stage of return, and sufficient analytical data have been obtained.

On the other hand, managing the distributed processing of data is a big project. Researchers need to focus on completing back-end analysis of existing results and getting results early to complete the paper.

Meanwhile, the $100 million Master Listen project, funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, will take the torch and continue to search for extraterrestrial civilizations.

However, officials also said that SETI@home project is not over, its website and message board will continue to operate. If astronomers discover other uses of SETI@home’s super computing power in the fields of cosmology, pulsar, and so on, SETI@home will again begin distributing to the public.

The project has been controversial – it has not had any tangible results for more than 20 years, wasting a lot of computing resources and even electricity bills.

But there is no denying that, as the ancestor of many distributed computing projects around the world, SETI@home is significant. As Dan Werthimer, SETI@home’s chief scientist, puts it:

Few people are involved in scientific projects of such far-reaching significance.


At the end of the SETI@home announcement, there is a line like this:

We also encourage you to participate in other BOINC-based projects.


Originally developed to support SETI@home, BOINC has evolved into the most mainstream distributed computing platform, currently used in a wide range of disciplines, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, life sciences, and geosciences, to facilitate researchers’ access to computing resources for volunteers around the world.

Global distributed computing power shared the ancestors in search of aliens for nearly 21 years, everything is in vain?

Existing projects of the BONIC platform

As of March 17, 2020, BOINC has 137,805 active users worldwide and 791,443 active computers, the fifth largest computing power in the world.

Steve Croft, a scientist at the SETI@home project, once said:

BOINC projects such as SETI@home are pioneers in cloud computing.

In fact, BOINC has also established a marginal computing business entity to formally expand into edge computing, providing a cheap and efficient computing resource expansion for traditional cloud computing services.

Although SETI@home into hibernation and does not have any substantial results at present, the wave of global distributed computing sharing that it leads has to be said to be significant.