More Than A Million
Worldwide Use Computers
To Search For ET


More than a million people worldwide are helping scientists search for ET using desktop computers in homes and offices, it was disclosed today.
Scientists said the number of people signed up to the Setiathome project, which pools together the power of thousands of computers, had "skyrocketed" since its launch three months ago.
Astronomers engaged in Seti - the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence - are tapping into people's private computers to help them crunch data from a flood of radio signals from outer space.
Anyone joining Setiathome can download a special screen saver which analyses chunks of data while their machine is idle.
The information comes via the Internet from the world's largest radio telescope, the 1,000ft diameter dish at Arecibo in Puerto Rico, which is scouring the sky for signs of intelligence life.
Scientists hope that among the millions of radio signals they will find one that bears the unmistakable hallmark of an intelligent message.
Harnessing people's desktops was necessary because even the supercomputers at the disposal of the Seti scientists are not powerful enough to cope with the enormous amount of data being gathered.
No signs alien life have emerged so far, but the Seti craze has spread through offices and classrooms in around 200 countries.
Today scientists said they had reached a landmark of a million computer users taking part around the world.
Louis Friedman, executive director of the Planetary Society which is sponsoring Setiathome, said: "Will we discover an alien signal? Who knows? But the search itself is a grand and exciting experiment that allows participants the chance to change human history by possibly discovering that we are not alone in the universe."
Companies, schools, government agencies, and universities had formed groups to compete for whose computers can analyse the most data.
The analysis is handled automatically by the screen saver program and the results sent to the University of California at Berkeley, while participants view the progress on their computer screens.
Dan Werthimer, a research physicist at the university's space sciences laboratory, said: "Setathome is now the largest computation ever done on this planet. We've accumulated more than 50,000 years of computing time so far.
"This is also the most sensitive sky survey ever conducted. Setiathome is so powerful because we are using the world's largest telescope and we are able to use it continuously, 24-hours a day, by piggypacking on other observations."