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SETI@home, the distributed computing project, is calling for more volunteers willing to donate their computers' downtime to the project which scans radio telescope data for evidence of intelligent alien life.

Volunteers download a small programme which acts something like a screensaver - it kicks into life when your computer is not doing anything. The software then crunches small parts of data from radio telescopes looking for patterns which could suggest intelligent life. Although each individual computer does not achieve very much, using hundreds of computers means a lot of data can be analysed. SETI stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

The reason that more computing power is needed is that the project has more data to deal with. The world's radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico is being fitted with more sensitive receivers - the SETI@home software has been upgraded to deal with that increased information.

The project will now be dealing with some 300 gigabytes of data a day - about 100 terabytes a year, equivalent to the entire US Library of Congress. The SETI@home project has been running since May 1999 - it was the internet's first distributed computing project. It is headquarted at Berkeley Space Sciences, University of California.

Over eight years it has had more than five million volunteers. The network currently has 170,000 volunteers running 320,000 computers.

SETI@home's press release is here, and the project resides here.

The project is sponsored by Sun Microsystems, Intel, ProCurve Networking and Network Appliance amongst others. ®

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