|The son of an English professor, I grew up with a voracious appetite for books. At the time, and now as it turns out, I read mostly science fiction which I thought to be scandalous to my father. This is until I found his own scifi collection in the local university’s special collections. I spent my time growing up reading, playing video games, and going to the movies (which would make Neuromancer and Snow Crash my favorite books, Mass effect my favorite pc game, and 2001 a space odyssey my favorite film). |
At some point between high school and collage I decided to get a degree in computer science. I learned at lot about writing compilers, lexical analyzers, and a baby OS, but nothing with any practical application. So spending all my free time on more computer games and magic the gathering, I met up with a really good system administrator who took me under his wing and taught me everything I know about running a Unix system. Still playing more magic the gathering, computer games, and looking for a nice girl, I picked up a best friend along the way. After a short 6 month detour playing everquest I again spent my time looking for a nice girl, seeing as many movies as I could and playing lots of pc games ( AOE2 and 3, Total Annihilation, and of course Mass Effect).
I finally found a nice girl, decided to keep her by deploying circular hardware made of precious metal with a chunk of multifaceted crystalline carbon attached. I still read a lot though I have added history to my reading list, movies have gotten expensive but Netflix keeps me from going bankrupt, and at this point I’m hoping the Mass Effect 3 is better than ME2.
|Thoughts about SETI and SETI@home|
|As I said, I’m a huge science fiction fan. I am also a huge science fan. I remember watching Cosmos when I was a kid, my first glimpse of just how large the universe is. Of course I was watching Star Trek as well and I thought it would be really wonderful to meet a race from a different star and to go exploring through the galaxy. When I got older I read Contact and also took a few astronomy classes and figured (before I heard of drake and his equations) that no matter how improbable the existence of life on any planet might be, there were simply too many planets in the universe for us to be the only intelligent life. |
But sadly warp drive does not exist yet so we are limited to our own solar system. At least for the foreseeable future. The Apollo program was gone and the shuttle was only orbital. A few probes were being sent out but as far as pushing past the moon is concerned, it looks like that’s on hold. But in 1999 there was an article in discover magazine that talked about SETI and its seti@home program. I signed up shortly after that and set up a couple machines to run seti all the time. At that point, my Pentium 100 took 100 hours to process a single work unit. I started using seti to benchmark my new computers. I was really happy when I got my AMD thunderbird and cut my processing time to 8 hours. Heady days.
I chose to participate in seti@home for several reasons:
because warp drive does not exist and there is no other way for me as a person to participate in space exploration. I can imagine as it runs here on my computers that I am seeking out new life and new civilizations and boldly going where no man has gone before. We who run seti are the bridge between my world of science fiction and reality.
Because seti@home, at that time and maybe now but I’m no longer sure of the statistics, was the largest distributed computing project in the world and it felt good to be involved in something bigger than myself. To know there were others who had similar thoughts as I had.
Because I thought the idea of seti@home was brilliant. Getting people involved and using others CPU to process data that the seti organization did not have the means to handle. I don’t know if they were the first to try a distributed approach but they were the first I had heard of. They had the idea they brought it to fruition and I think such resourcefulness should be rewarded even had I not been interested in SETI I would most likely gotten involved to show support for this idea. It just happened that both the idea of distributed computing and space exploration coalesced in a happy coincidence.
Ah but to all good things…
A few years later I moved and never got my seti@home back up and running. Other irons in the fire. At some point I was told Seti@home was shut down. On a wave of nostalgia I googled seti@home and found the site alive. It was a wonderful moment though I found much had changed. Now there are dozens of distributed projects and a generic framework (boinc ) on which to run them. So I’m at it again. In my starship cruising through space looking for new life and new civilizations at least as long as the Seti server is up handing out work units.
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