Seeking extropian opinion: GIMPS vs SETI?

Michael Wiik (
Sat, 15 May 1999 00:20:04 -0400

What should my computer be doing in its spare time?

Until an hour or so ago it was running the Great Internet Mersenne Prime search. Currently it's running SETI@home.

My overburdened PC will take about two months to determine if 2^7196767-1 is prime. After that it will move on to another assigned number. The GIMPS program, running contiually as a low priority background process, runs a number of iterations equal to the power being tested. It seems to take an average of .6 seconds for each iteration, but this time increases dramatically if it's running something heavy like WebTrends. If it runs SETI@Home, the time per iteration goes up to about 20 seconds. If it finds a million digit prime EFF will give me $50,000. If it finds any new mersenne prime it will not only beep at me but the team I'm with will throw a party in my honor.

The SETI@home software can be configured to run all the time, or as a screensaver. It's resource intensive (using 15 megs RAM) and has a major impact on my PC's performance. It appears to be running FFTs on 107.4 seconds of data recorded at Arecibo Radio Observatory early in January of this year. It says it's 2.642% done after running 2 hours and 44 minutes. I'm not aware if there's any prizes for discovering signals from an alien intelligence.

I have some doubts that an advanced alien civilization would be communicating with radio, and think perhaps that if my PC finds anything at all, it will be alien losers who missed out on their civilization's singularity.

Comment are appreciated.




Michael Wiik Principal Messagenet Communications Research Washington DC Area Internet and WWW Consultants