Since March 2000 I, along with three million other computer users, have been part of the largest co-operative scientific project in existence. We are part of the SETI@home project, where a 340 kb block of data is downloaded from the internet and "crunched" by a program on our computer provided by the same site. The data involved is acquired by SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestial Intellegence) group from the Areciebo radio telescope in South America. Millions of radio frequencies are scanned for anomolous signals that may or may not be an alien sit-com.
The program in question is a "screensaver", the idea being that when your computer is not actually working for you, it will be searching for LGM (Little Green Men). The program is processor intensive and occupies about 16 meg of ram, but while it is in "screensaver" mode it tends to take longer to process the data. I have found that I can run it all the time in the background, with the the screensaver set as "none" and it improves processing times by 50%, I also run the computer day and night with the monitor off when not using it.
In March 2001 we formed a group called "Fellowship of Light" so that our combinded totals will enable us to become "visible" in the statistics and earn some recognition. The name is derived from some friendly rivalry with a friend and our SETI totals... we refer to him as the Dark Lord, ergo... Fellowship of Light. If you would like to be involved in this project, and join the "Fellowship of Light", click on the link below and sign-up.
For some months I had laboured to maintain an e-mail list of contacts; to announce events that might be happening in the sky or with the club that I belong. One of the things that worried me was bulk-mailing a lot of addresses around... a spammer would appreciate 30 or 40 addresses, but certainly not the addressees. Thus was born the NightStories e-Group.
NightStories is intended to help spread awareness that astronomy can be practiced easily, from you backyard or local park, and with minimal equipment. The NightStories site has a calendar of the use of members, it automatically sends reminders of events to all members of the e-Group, there is a chat page for those who wish to use it, a links page (says it all really), and a file sharing capability (images and the like).
But wait there is more...
The best part of the e-Group is the Messages facility. Members are by default subscribers to an e-mail list, and may post to other members in the e-Group their experiences, questions, answers, interesting urls, and reminders of upcoming events. The e-Group is not limited geographically, after all astronomy IS universal (pun intended), and while some things may be centered around this city/state or that, ALL members may post events and activities near them. These messages are received as individual e-mails or as as a daily digest.
All members are able to place events on the calendar, although only they and the moderator (me) may edit them, and the calendar can send reminders as specified. This is useful to promote your local club or public event, or if you travel, you may know of an event or meeting at your destination.