Bernd Ziegler of Germany is the lucky 3 millionth user of SETI@home, a search for extraterrestrial intelligence that marks its second anniversary on May 17, 2001. SETI@home sponsors, The Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios, will award Ziegler a lifetime membership in The Planetary Society, Carl Sagan's television series COSMOS on DVD, and a SETI poster signed by Project Director David Anderson and Chief Scientist Dan Werthimer.
The largest distributed computing experiment ever undertaken, this University of California, Berkeley project uses a computer program that analyzes scientific data while acting as a screen-saver on personal computers.
"Is this a hoax? Are you really David Anderson?" was Ziegler's surprised response to the e-mailed news that he was the three millionth user.
Ziegler is a physicist who specializes in optics and lasers, whose hobbies are philosophy, astronomy and karate. He first read about SETI@home one month ago in a magazine article.
Since Ziegler joined the SETI@home community last week on May 7, the project has signed up over 20,000 more participants, and the number keeps rising.
SETI@home went on-line two years ago on May 17, 1999 to wide acclaim and worldwide attention. For the first time, ordinary citizens anywhere could actually participate in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
The Planetary Society will commemorate SETI@home's turning two years old with the debut of a new website feature called "SETI: A Short History," a 13-part series on the modern history of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
SETI@home harnesses the spare computing power of over three million Internet-connected personal computers around the world to crunch data from the radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico. To date, SETI@home participants have collectively logged 664 millennia of computer time -- by far the largest computation ever performed.
SETI@home was conceived by computer scientist David Gedye, along with Craig Kasnoff and astronomer Woody Sullivan. The project's start-up funding came from The Planetary Society, and Cosmos Studios has now joined with the Society in continuing SETI@home sponsorship. Other sponsors include the University of California; Sun Microsystems; Fujifilm Computer Products; Quantum Corp.; and Paramount Pictures, which provided partial funding to The Planetary Society for this project.
Designed to tap into the enormous power of hundreds of thousands of personal computers, SETI@home participation was initially pegged at 200,000 to 300,000 people. Sign-ups proved to be 10 times that number and are still rising, with an average of 2,500 new participants joining each day. SETI@home users represent a wide cross-section of the public and log in from 226 different countries.
SETI@home is one of six projects in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence supported by The Planetary Society -- the world's largest space interest group, and longest running funder of SETI projects on Earth.