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And you can now run BOINC on GPUs—graphical processing units, brought to you by gamers—and on Android smartphones Nearly half a million people use the infrastructure now, making the Home computers have gotten about 100 times faster since 1999, thank God, and on the data distribution side, Berkeley has gotten about 10 times faster.They’re adding BOINC as a bandwidth-increasing option to the Texas Advanced Computing Center and nano HUB, and also letting people sign up for volunteer computing, tell the system what they think are the most important scientific goals, and then have their computers be automatically matched to projects as those projects need time.The idea went like this: When internet-farers abandoned their computers long enough that a screen saver popped up, that saver wouldn’t be Word Art bouncing around, 3-D neon-metallic pipes installing themselves inch by inch, or a self-satisfied flying Windows logo. Their screens would be saved by displays of data analysis, showing which and how much data from elsewhere their CPUs were churning through during down-time.
Anderson wanted to create a self-updating infrastructure that would solve that problem—and be flexible enough that other, non-SETI projects could bring their work onboard and benefit from distributed computing.
It began in 1960, when an astronomer named Frank Drake used an 85-foot radio telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia, to scan two Sun-like stars for signs of intelligent life—radio emissions the systems couldn’t produce on their own, like the thin-frequency broadcasts of our radio stations, or blips that repeated in a purposeful-looking way.
Since then, scientists and engineers have used radio and optical telescopes to search much more of the sky—for those “narrowband” broadcasts, for fast pings, for long drones, for patterns distinguishing themselves from the chaotic background static and natural signals from stars and supernovae.
Watching the internet extend its reach, a small group of scientists thought a more extensive digital leap was in order, one that encompassed the galaxy itself.
And so it was that before the new millennium dawned, researchers at the University of California released a citizen-science program called [email protected]
There’s only one way to do that, says Dan Werthimer, the chief SETI scientist at Berkeley and a co-founder of [email protected]: “We need a lot of computing power.”In the 1970s, when Werthimer’s Berkeley colleagues launched a SETI project called SERENDIP, they sucked power from all the computers in their building, then the neighboring building. In the decades that followed, they turned to supercomputers.