Well, the BOINC-supported SETI@home is working out well for me. I’ve noticed that the work units are smaller with BOINC, taking my laptop about 2 hours to process per. I still don’t like the screensaver graphics as much as the Classic, but oh well. There are some cool plugins for the BOINC software that didn’t exist for Classic: the one I especially like is the sky map that shows the positions of all work units processed on your computer. When I’ve done more than a handful I’ll have to see what that looks like.
For those of you out there in My Beloved Audience unfamiliar with SETI@home, it’s a distributed computing project to detect artificial radio signals from space — that is, signals sent either deliberately (a la Contact) or accidentally (as TV & radio signals have been emanating from Earth for the better part of a century) by intelligent life out there in space. SETI@home uses data from the Arecibo radio telescope. Why Arecibo and not, say, the VLA? I don’t know; that’s where they can schedule time to collect data, I suppose.
What would a signal from ET look like if someone were to find one? Like this, apparently, or so the SETI@home folks speculate:
A signal like this was detected in 1977, but its actual origin could never be determined.
Anyway, if you think that searching for signals from ET is too silly, or too much of a longshot (can’t say I disagree with you there), then there are several other distributed computing efforts that BOINC supports:
- Climateprediction.net: study climate change
- Einstein@home: search for gravitational signals coming from pulsars
- LHC@home: improve the design of the CERN LHC particle accelerator
- Predictor@home: investigate protein-related diseases
- Cell Computing: biomedical research
Make use of those spare clock cycles! It’s like giving your computer a hobby.