E.T. gets a conference call

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When David Anderson and Dan Werthimer decided to enlist Everyman in the search for ET, they thought in terms of a few hundred thousand recruits.

Since their SETI@home project began last May, however, more than 1 million people from nearly every country have tapped ET's party line - using home, office, and school computers, plus special software, to sort through cosmic radio signals for potential signs of intelligent life.

The raw data comes from the Arecibo radiotelescope in Puerto Rico. It's cut into small chunks and distributed via the Internet, as is the free software.

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No one has yet found a tell-tale signal, the University of California at Berkeley scientists say. But the response has set records. "SETI@home is now the largest computation ever done on this planet," Dr. Werthimer notes. To date, the effort has logged more than 51,000 years of computing time, leading Dr. Anderson to conclude that a similar approach could be applied to other computer-intensive scientific problems.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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