A project that uses computers' idle processing time to search for extraterrestrial life has received financial backing from several US hi-tech millionaires including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
Allen is donating $11.5m to the Seti Institute which is heading up [email protected], a Berkeley University project that ties together the collective computing power of home and office computers to scan data for a signal from space.
Other benefactors include Nathan Myhrvold, former Microsoft chief technology officer, who donated $1m and Joe Firmage, former chief executive of web services company USWeb/CKS, who has gained some notoriety because of his interests in UFOs. His donation is believed to be worth several million dollars.
[email protected] was launched a year ago and boasts more than two million participants in 226 countries. Apart from private donations, it has an annual budget of $400,000.
Seti researchers are also developing a new kind of telescope made from standard satellite dishes in the hope of getting in touch with extraterrestrials. Called the Allen Telescope, scientists hope the device will enable them to examine as many as a dozen stars simultaneously to detect signals over an extremely wide range of frequencies in the search for intelligent life forms.
The institute has yet to locate any signals from outer space that could be confirmed as being from an alien source.
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