[email protected]'s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence comes to an end

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 3, 2020

[email protected] will go into hibernation on March 31, 2020. The distributed computing project was launched in 1999 to analyze data provided by the radio telescope Arecibo in Puerto Rico. Later on, data from the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and Parkes Observatory in Australia were added.

[email protected] -- SETI stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence -- broke down the signals into packets which it then distributed to connected computer systems. These computer systems, often operated by volunteers from around the world, would then be used to analyze the data and transfer results back to the project.

The project will go into hibernation on March 31, 2020; the volunteering computing part will stop distributing work.


The project maintainers at UC Berkeley provide two reasons for the decision:

  1. The project is "at a point of diminishing returns" as it has "analyzed all the data" that is needed "for now".
  2. Managing the distributed processing of data is a lot of work and time is required to complete the "back-end analysis of the results" that have been obtained already.

Hibernation means that the project is not disappearing from the face of the earth. The project website and forums remain open and the distributed computing resources of [email protected] may be used by other scientific research projects to focus on areas such as "cosmology or pulsar research". [email protected] may start distributing work again if that happens and the project team will make an announcement if a new research project has been found.

[email protected] has about 1.8 million users at the time of writing and an average of 148,000 machines that run the software. The software was very popular when it first launched and installed on millions of devices in the early years. The project switched the infrastructure to BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) in 2004, a move that was not liked by all users. [email protected] is by far the most popular BOINC project.

Now You: Do you contribute your computing powers to research projects?

SETI@Home's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence comes to an end
Article Name
[email protected]'s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence comes to an end
[email protected] will go into hibernation on March 31, 2020 after more than 20 years of analyzing data to find Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
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  1. Yuliya said on March 3, 2020 at 11:41 am

    Extraterrestrial lifeform exists!

    1. MikeO said on March 3, 2020 at 2:15 pm

      ET does exist. The Universe is vast beyond comprehension. To believe there is no other life in the Universe is the height of arrogance.

      1. Allwynd said on March 3, 2020 at 2:44 pm


        That’s what religion preaches.

      2. lias7r7 said on March 6, 2020 at 4:44 pm

        Note that in astrophysics and cosmology, the term “universe” tends to mean what we know of (AKA part of the Big Bang), and it’s not beyond comprehension. If it was, then we couldn’t know what we do.

        Beyond that it’s theoretical, where we don’t know. To say otherwise as fact is kooky.

        Furthermore, you can’t assume our known universe is big when you have nothing to compare it to. What you need is another universe. To simply compare it to Earth is arrogance. It’s like an ant on a lawn saying “this forest is huge!”.

        There may be more, yet there may not be.. We don’t know.

        TIP: Watch Joe Rogan Experience #1428 – Brian Greene

    2. smaragdus said on March 3, 2020 at 3:42 pm

      You are the proof!

    3. daryl said on March 3, 2020 at 7:35 pm
  2. chesscanoe said on March 3, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    I still occasionally use the memory stress test at https://www.mersenne.org/ but no longer search for the next mersenne prime discovery.

  3. Watako Tatako said on March 3, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    And what are the results of the research?

  4. Tiffany said on March 3, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    I think we’re alone now. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around.

  5. checked the box said on March 3, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    > I think we’re alone now. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around.

    The beating of our hearts is the only sound

  6. Anders said on March 3, 2020 at 2:12 pm
  7. Cor said on March 3, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    I wonder how diverse the results were. And I hope this wasn’t one of the reasons this project was canceled.

  8. lord_Toni said on March 3, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    The Earth is flat and aliens are sci-fi. Finally. Everything comes to an end.

  9. svim said on March 3, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    Wow, I had forgotten about this neat project. It’s nice to know [email protected] has been churning away all this time, and it’s settling into ‘retirement’.
    Back in early 2000’s I worked at a place where we had an under-utilized file and print server so just to give it some more purpose in life we set up [email protected] on it. Lunch time someone would always check to see how many data packets our little server had processed.

    Thanks for posting this Martin.

  10. Frank Drake's equation said on March 3, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    The number of civilizations in our galaxy is the product of:
    the average rate of star formation in our galaxy
    the fraction of those stars that have planets
    the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
    the fraction of planets that could support life that actually develop life
    the fraction of planets with life that actually go on to develop civilizations
    the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases signs of their existence
    the length of time for which such civilizations release signals into space

    So, it is probably high.

    1. allen said on March 4, 2020 at 12:31 am

      Or, life on Earth could be an incredible aberration, a perfect storm of known and unknown conditions which cause life to begin, develop, and thrive.

    2. mike said on March 4, 2020 at 10:47 am

      I read the Drake equation and come to the opposite conclusion. Seti is deeply uninspiring: pointing a telescope at each star for half an hour in a galaxy of 100-200 billion stars does not inspire confidence, plus radio leakage is more difficult to detect than previously thought. Coupled with the fact they are beyond reach anyway puts the project in the realms of worthy but a long shot.

      If you want to use spare computing power maybe switch it off and save our planet. In that equation, technology is the problem, not the solution.

    3. get real said on March 6, 2020 at 4:51 pm


      But we don’t know how life got started, so we don’t know the numbers involved with that equation.

      To assume any conclusion is foolish.

      1 + ? = a lot more


      1. get real said on March 6, 2020 at 4:53 pm

        Opps, my comment was for “Frank Drake’s equation”, not mike.

  11. jern said on March 3, 2020 at 9:12 pm

    nIv’e’ nov pagh SoH blast maH ‘u’ chID

    1. khai said on March 4, 2020 at 4:07 pm

      a frog? in which Bidet?

  12. Danny said on March 4, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    I used to run [email protected] but I became disillusioned about the possibility of discovering other intelligent life forms in our vast universe, so i shifted to [email protected] for more down-to-earth goals.

  13. ULBoom said on March 5, 2020 at 5:32 am

    To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, “If Aliens were on earth, don’t you think we’d know?”

    ULBoom Equation: Probability of hiding the existence of Alien lifeforms diminishes geometrically as the number of individuals with such knowledge increases, rapidly approaching zero.

    Every argument I’ve seen is identical to those surrounding a Supreme Being, where logic also doesn’t work, with the same end point: no one knows either way.

    SETI itself has been around forever, way before this pooled resources thing. We’ll keep looking regardless; indisputable proof of Alien lifeforms would trash so many of our contrived institutions, a good thing!

  14. Jillo said on March 6, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    “If Aliens were on earth, don’t you think we’d know?”

    No. As I’m a rational septic, I find that question silly, as it assumes the idea that we would all know if it was so.

    In other words, some could know where others don’t, and aliens could be on Earth where none of us know.

    Also, I doubt Arthur C. Clarke ever said that, but no matter, as I’m treating that silly quote as your words.

    That said, I doubt anyone knows, but there are mysterious that can’t simply be dismissed.

    “indisputable proof of Alien lifeforms would trash so many of our contrived institutions”

    Can you give an example of one of those institutions?

    I think most of science excepts the idea that there may be Alien lifeforms beyond Earth. Thus, these so-called “contrived institutions” are not known to me. As it is, I think that claim of yours is crazy.

    Show me I’m wrong, or perhaps seek some mental help.

    1. Jillo said on March 6, 2020 at 5:23 pm

      Oops.. rational septic = rational skeptic … LOL

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