Re: Seeking extropian opinion: GIMPS vs SETI?

Spike Jones (
Sat, 15 May 1999 07:32:23 -0700

Michael Wiik wrote:

> What should my computer be doing in its spare time?

Until Thursday, both my computers were doing GIMPS. I decided to split them between GIMPS and SETI. I calculated that the probability of GIMPS finding a new prime (with more than a million decimal digits) is about 68% before the end of the year. With my computers doing about 118 P90 CPU hours per day, I figured my chances of winning the $50,000 is about 1 in 4000 (altho the EFF prize was not the reason I was doing GIMPS).

GIMPS does not slow down one's computer. It stays out of your way. Ive been running it for about 10 months now, and it has never caused problems. My early impression of SETI is that it does not get out of your way as well as GIMPS, if you have it set to run continuously. It makes some apps jerky.

The amount of CPU time currently wasted is truely mind boggling. In deciding between the two, look beyond oneself and consider these comparisons between SETI and GIMPS:

If you find the next megaprime, you, personally, will go down in the mathematical history books (and be 50k richer), but the significance to humankind is negligible. With SETI, the consequences of finding a ET signal are incalculable. We know the next megaprime is out there, and it is close at hand. With SETI we have no such reassurance.

On the other hand, the nondiscovery of ETI is perhaps just as profound, for we get a new sense of how rare is intelligence. Furthermore, every time we gaze into the starry night sky, we can tell ourselves with a sweeping arm gesture: aaaalllll of thaaaat... is ours. Lets go get it! All of it! spike