Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Attempts to hurry up the hunt for aliens dismay SETI's astronomers

Expand Messages
  • Jeroen Kumeling
    Attempts to hurry up the hunt for aliens dismay SETI s astronomers By Kurt Kleiner OVERZEALOUS hackers have tinkered with the software volunteers use to help
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 1999
    View Source
    • 0 Attachment
      Attempts to hurry up the hunt for aliens dismay SETI's astronomers
      By Kurt Kleiner

      OVERZEALOUS hackers have tinkered with the software volunteers use to help
      search for extraterrestrial intelligence to make it run faster. But the
      scientists who run the project say the altered program could be more of a
      hindrance than a help.


      "I don't think people intend to maliciously hurt the SETI programme, but
      we're recommending that people do not use these programs," says Dan
      Werthimer of the University of California at Berkeley, chief scientist on
      the project.

      SETI@home is an ambitious attempt to harness the spare power of thousands of
      computers to search for signals from intelligent life (New Scientist, 25
      July 1998, p 46). Scientists break down observations from the Arecibo radio
      telescope in Puerto Rico into 12-second chunks and send them over the
      Internet to volunteers. Whenever a volunteer's computer is idle, the
      SETI@home program sifts the data for any signals that might have come from
      an alien civilisation.

      In October, someone going by the name of Olli released a "patch" to the
      program--an additional section of code that makes the calculations run much
      faster. At least two other patches have followed.

      Only a few hundred of the 450 000 active volunteers are using the patches.
      But Eric Korpella, an astronomer with the project, says they're still a
      problem. "We really want a consistent set of science code," he says.

      Critics reply that the SETI managers are turning away much needed help. "I'm
      not encouraging people to sabotage the project," says Bradley Kuhn, a
      programmer in Cincinatti, Ohio. But since programs can never be perfectly
      secure, he argues, the project managers should let users examine the code
      and suggest ways to make it as secure as possible.

      But Korpella says the project will not release its source code, and the
      program is being rewritten to make it harder to alter. However, he hopes it
      will also run faster in future--the time saved may be devoted to more
      detailed analysis. (From New Scientist, 20/11/99)

      Jeroen Kumeling
      Paul Krugerstraat 6
      7551 GX Hengelo (ov)
      +31 (0)74-24 25 514
      email: ufonet@...

      UFO-Werkgroep Nederland
      Postbus 2191
      7500 CD Enschede
      tel: +31 (0)53 4310412
      email: ufowerkgroepNL@...

      Bezoek ook eens de internetsite van UFONET:
      http://www.xs4all.nl/~ufonet of
      http://ufonet.iwarp.com
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.