Is There Intelligent Life Out There?

The Higley Unified School District fired its information technology director, not only because he took school computer equipment home for his personal use, but because he programmed all of the district’s computers into the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life (SETI) network to help find aliens.

Bradley Niesluchowski now faces charges of using public money for personal use, possession of lost and stolen property, and computer tampering in an educational facility.

People voluntarily install the SETI software, which uses your computer while it is idle to “analyze radio telescope data in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.” But Niesluchowski went into the outer limits by downloading it onto 5,000 school district computers. Teachers complained their computers were slow to respond.

The district estimates it will take up to $1.6 million to replace and repair the computers.


One thought on “Is There Intelligent Life Out There?”

  1. SETI@home is one of those “distributed computation” gigs–you download a small program (which you can turn on/off) and when it’s running, it will process data from the SETI program. The idea is that having lots of computers all over the world simultaneously processing data is more efficient than having one supercomputer doing all the calculations.

    There is/was a similar distributed computation program for HIV/AIDS. I wonder if the district would have been as quick to punish Mr. Niesluchowski had he installed *that* software instead of the SETI software.

    Full disclosure: at various times in the past I’ve had one or both of those programs on my home computer.

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