Seti@Home optimized science apps and information

Optimized Seti@Home apps => Discussion Forum => Topic started by: Fuzzy Hollynoodles on 08 Jan 2007, 08:18:51 pm

Title: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: Fuzzy Hollynoodles on 08 Jan 2007, 08:18:51 pm
From here (

Eric Korpela, Forum moderator, Project administrator,Project developer,Project scientist, explains:

    Whoa.... Been reading the thread. I wasn't aware that Seti was in such dire straits. I guess I assumed that most of Seti was backed by Universities and grants.

First we need to make the distinction between SETI@home and SETI. SETI is not an organization, SETI is a field of study. There is no centralized organization running SETI efforts. You may have heard of the SETI Institute. They are not SETI. In fact, most of the people working there have never done any SETI related work.

SETI@home is one SETI project run by the UC Berkeley SETI group. In terms of scientific staff, the Berkeley SETI group is me and Dan Werthimer. Matt Lebofsky and Jeff Cobb form the remainder of the staff. David Anderson is running the BOINC program and advises SETI@home. We have a systems adminsitrator that that is leaving on tuesday because (even if we had ample money) the pay rates for systems administrators at the University don't come close to matching private industry. And we aren't allowed to pay more than the University will let us. (Actually is the state that prevents us from giving raises. Even though we aren't funded through taxes, the University considers us to be part of the overall budget)

That's it, really. 5 people. Less than 3 FTEs.

SETI@home is entirely funded by donations. Most of these donations come from people who also run SETI@home. Universities don't really "back" anybody. Faculty at Univerisities and expected to bring in their own funding. If Dan and I don't bring in money, we don't get paid, but we still keep our jobs (without pay). Matt and Jeff get a pink slip. In exchange for a cut of that funding, the universities provide offices and keep the lights on.

The NSF and NASA currently do not fund any SETI observing programs. At least none that I am aware of. Nor does any other government agency. We submit grant applications to the NSF Galactic Astronomy program, but we are unlikely to get funding. The sorry truth is that the $500,000 per year needed to keep SETI@home running is very large fraction the entire annual NSF Galactic Astronomy budget. The proposals are reviewed by other Astronomers, none of whom work on SETI. They naturally would prefer that the funding remain in the areas of astronomy in which they work. These are also predominantly astronomers who are Professors who get paid by the University for "teaching" in during the school year. (Even though the bulk of astronomy professors rarely teach). Therefore they frown upon paying "senior personnel" with the money they control. And because of earmarks that happened last year, the NSF Astronomy budget is getting squeezed.

Previously SETI@home was funded by corporate donations and matching funds a state program run by the UC Office of the President. SETI@home does not currently have any corporate donors that provide financial donations. Therefore we are entirely dependent on donation which predominantly come from people who run SETI@home.

Regarding to potential of finding wealthy sponsors. We, unfortunately, are forbidden from contacting most wealthy individuals directly unless we have a current relationship with them (i.e. they run SETI@home) or if they contact us. This policy is set by the U.C. Office of the President because the U.C. President prefers to direct such funding toward projects he wants funded. (i.e. a new business school, a new building for biological sciences, whatever else the president wants as his legacy). Funding SETI@home won't get the U.C. President a statue on Sproul plaza. Many wealthy donors to the University also want a lasting (concrete) legacy. Funding projects rather than buildings doesn't really cause letters to appear in granite cornerstones.

   I was under the assumption that it was managed by people skilled in the area of management.

Dan and I have many, many years of experience in project management. The other half of my time, I'm an ultraviolet astronomer that manages the development of instruments for space missions. Being a skilled project manager doesn't help when you can't afford to pay people. You can't hire people until you have enough money to pay then. The University is pretty strict about that.

    Why donate to a project when the core business or mission isn't being looked after. On the other hand, there is a need to introduce something new to entice more funding which in turn will provide the needs to return to the original mission.
    Am I seeing this correctly so far in basic terms?

I think you are seeing it pretty well. Unfortunately with a staff of 3 FTEs we end up chasing fires a lot of the time rather than doing new things, and without money we can't hire more staff. Server outages are bad press, so keeping them running is high on the priority list (and is certainly part of the core mission). We will have some new things to announce this year, but how many and when is a question I can't yet answer.


I mailed Dr. Anderson and asked him for a statement to post here as a comment to this, and he was so kind to answer me.

Dr. David Anderson said:

To Eric's excellent post, I would only add:

1) SETI@home's scientific progress is limited by money,
and it has made slow progress in the last several years.
To each BOINC participant:
carefully examine the list of volunteer computing projects,
and decide which of them is doing the most good.
(This is a personal decision - it depends on your beliefs and values).
By promoting the idea of "cross-project" credit totals,
we have tried to eliminate the incentive to stick
with one project indefinitely.

And also, in response to some of the posts:

2) Buying items from the SETI@home store brings a small
amount of money to SETI@home, but it is much more cost-effective
to contribute directly.

-- David


Thank you David for taking the time for this. It's very much appreciated.   :)

For your info, the questions about items bought in the Seti store was brought up on the BOINC Synergy forum, which I linked to him to see, so he addressed this also.
Title: Re: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: UBT - Halifax--lad on 19 Feb 2007, 04:59:27 pm
Still waiting for this ruddy green star, wish they would get around to awarding them to people who donate through the paypal gateway, just donated to PrimeGrid / BOINCstats and got my reward straight away
Title: Re: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: Simon on 23 Feb 2007, 10:17:26 pm
UBT Lad,
your ruddy star arrived today ;)

Seriously though, Eric Korpela fixed the import script; from now on, donations will get processed a lot more rapidly.

This was the first time we ever transferred data, and it didn't work right away. Sorry for any anxiety and inconvenience this may have caused.

Title: Re: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: pepperammi on 24 Feb 2007, 08:51:03 am
Wohay! it's listing my donation on my account page  ;D
Title: Re: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: XJR-Maniac on 24 Mar 2007, 05:42:05 am

I made my donation on Sunday, 11.03.07
How long does it take generally to reveive seti@home and when will I see my star?
Is two weeks a usual delay?

Title: Re: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: XJR-Maniac on 26 Mar 2007, 04:13:51 pm



Title: Re: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: Simon on 26 Mar 2007, 04:18:26 pm
Could you tone it down a little maybe?

A) no, you have not been cheated.
B) donor data gets transferred once every week or ten days, time permitting.
C) it then has to get imported by someone at SETI@Home

This question has been asked AND answered many times in many places, including this forum.

So please, let's stay civilized and not start accusing people of cheating, shall we.

Your green star will show up, provided you have donated at least 10 USD.

So, what's next then?

Title: Re: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: XJR-Maniac on 27 Mar 2007, 05:35:26 pm
Thank you for your answer.

So, was it really that hard to give that answer to me?
Why does s/o always have to shout to be heard?
Do you really think it is very civilized to ignore s/o question,
even if it's asked a thousand times?

I don't think it is very polite to ignore s/o, no matter what
those stupid forum rules or something else says. I've wasted
too much time in all those forums searching for answers whilst
there was someone who can help me whithin a few seconds.

And if my question is asked and answered so many times, why
is there no sticky thread for it or a note right beneath the donation

Thanks again for your reply
May the force be with you
Title: Re: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: Simon on 27 Mar 2007, 06:39:04 pm

you didn't have to shout to be heard. I read your initial message and sent the donation data up to that point pretty immediately after.

What I didn't have, then, and often do not, is the time to come back and post about it. I have a full time job, this (pretty time-consuming) hobby of mine ( as well as a few others, and on top of that I'm trying to have some semblance of a life ;)

Also - I may not be around every day, sometimes I may be away for up to a week on business. There is no guarantee of a 24-hour response, or anything - nor will there be. So some delays may happen, but no, you did not need to post in a rather harsh tone (and all caps/shouting) - the same message in a normal tone asking why there had been no response would have been enough...

may the Schwartz, er, Force be with you always ;)
Title: Re: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: Urs Echternacht on 05 Jun 2007, 06:00:58 pm
Hi Simon,
today i got the info that PAYPAL will be listed as an international bank from July 2007 on. Will that change anything for this donation method to Seti@home ?

Hallo Simon,
ich habe heute erfahren, daß PAYPAL ab Anfang Juli als internationale Bank geführt wird. Wird sich dadurch irgendetwas an diesem Weg für Seti@home zu spenden ändern ?
Title: Re: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: Simon on 05 Jun 2007, 06:13:58 pm
Hi Urs,

I don't think much will change; if anything, it should become easier to use your bank account for PayPal transactions.

However, I haven't checked in depth - if I find out anything, I'll let you know :)

Title: Re: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: Urs Echternacht on 05 Jun 2007, 07:26:00 pm
Thanks in advance, Simon.

Danke im voraus, Simon.
Title: Berkeley extrasolar planets and SETI@home - Re: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: ralph on 24 Aug 2009, 11:21:17 pm
One "berkeley coordination" question.

There's a NASA Probe, Kepler, that JPL is involved with, that is confirming more and more extrasolar planets.

Other research at Berkeley is finding more frequent occurrences of extrasolar planets. 
Has that work been able to characterize the type of stars likely to host a solar system with Earth-like planets?   If it has, has the SETI projects (Allen Array, SETI@home/Serendip)

Is there any plan to try to coordinate observations, or focus more on planetary systems that seems to support extrasolar planets? might be an interesting place to look at with the Kepler probe, to see if there are any evidences of extrasolar planets there.

It seems like most of the extrasolar discoveries are based on optical observation, and it would be interesting to compare SETI's radio-telescope observations with the orbital paths of the known extrasolar planets.

Title: Re: SETI@Home needs your help!
Post by: Josef W. Segur on 25 Aug 2009, 04:25:52 am
The Kepler probe hasn't found any earthlike planets yet, it needs to wait for a second crossing of a planet in front of its star to determine the orbital period, and a third crossing to be sure the first two were the same planet. IOW, the full 3.5 years staring at the same 10 by 10 degree area are required for it to confirm earthlike planets around stars similar to ours. If they get an extension beyond that planned lifetime of the project, it's unlikely they would change to another area to observe, it would be better science to refine the data they've gathered by further observation. In any case, Kepler isn't the right instrument to make detailed observations of a specific source, it is made for covering a broad field.

What they have done so far is look at one already known supermassive planet orbitting HAT-P-7 very quickly so several crossings were observed. From that data they know that Kepler is working very well, it was even able to detect the light reflected from the planet as it moved in its orbit and more of the lighted side was facing us, and the reduction in light as the planet went behind the star.

SETI@home is a specific kind of search, designed for maximum sensitivity using data which is almost free because we tap off whatever is being observed by others. For any kind of observing program which is targetted at specific locations for SETI, the funding problems are far more acute. S@H barely has enough money to keep operating as is. But of course Berkeley is involved in several other kinds of SETI efforts.

I do hope Kepler finds that earthlike planets are relatively common, perhaps that would stimulate enough public interest so SETI funding will be easier. It would certainly ensure that additional space observatories with enhanced capability would be launched, though that would take several years.