Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Thousands Join Hunt for Gravitational Waves
NewScientist.com news service
By Maggie McKee
On Monday 14 March, the 126th anniversary of Albert Einstein's birth, over 50,000 people around the world are helping in the hunt for the gravitational waves predicted by the great physicist nearly a century ago.
These people have already downloaded the distributed-computing program Einstein@Home, which was only launched on 19 February 2005, and more than 1000 people per day are still joining.
Dense moving objects such as spinning neutron stars or colliding black holes are predicted to send out ripples in space-time - gravitational waves - according to Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. But so far no gravitational waves have ever been observed.
Part of the problem lies with the computing power necessary to crunch data from the large and relatively new gravitational wave detectors. Einstein@Home, run by universities in the US and Germany, is enlisting anyone with an internet connection to help analyse data from two gravitational wave searches.
Like the program SETI@Home, which searches radio telescope data for signals from extraterrestrial life, Einstein@Home runs while the computer is idle, showing a screensaver with the portion of sky from which the data is taken.