The Hustle

The sun sets on an amateur alien-hunting project

It's the end of the line for SETI@home, which used distributed computing power to scan the stars for intelligent life.


March 4, 2020

Pour one out for extraterrestrial enthusiasts everywhere.

SETI@home, a groundbreaking project that used crowdsourced computing power to scan the stars for intelligent life, is winding down its volunteer army at the end of the month.

ET phone home? More like ET phone your home

Launched in 1999, SETI@home used a network of volunteers — and the horsepower of their idling computers — to crunch cosmic data from radio telescopes.

The program was famous for its trippy screensaver, with its field of colorful spikes.

As Wired put it, using the software basically “meant that if ET called Earth, it could very well be your own CPU that picked up the phone.”

But the phone’s going back on the hook

This week, researchers behind the project announced that it would stop sending new data to SETI@home volunteers. They’ve only been able to analyze small parts of what’s been parsed in 2 decades.

That doesn’t mean the hunt for ET is coming to an end. Breakthrough Listen picked up the interstellar baton, and uses major computing firepower, not the kind farmed out to your home office.

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