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As of this writing, the SETI@home project has about 15 Teraflops of computing power. That's 3 teraflops more than IBM's supercomputer ASCI White. The SETI project, however, has only cost about $550 thousand, while ASCI White cost about $110 million. The project has almost reached 1 million computer years of work. A very valuable resource, to say the least.

Is this one of the largest wastes of computing power in existence today?

A new book titled Rare Earth by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee seems to finally answer that question with some certainty. SETI@home is based on the Drake Equation, which dictates that there should theoretically be quite a few planets with intelligent lifeforms in our galaxy. Unfortunately, the Drake Equation has been found to be massively flawed on numerous levels. Many--previously disregarded--factors necessary for life (a small sample being a plate tectonic system, a special type of moon, exact concentrations of elements, and a very extraordinary sun) are ignored by the Drake Equation.

The SETI@home project has never produced a single confirmed result. Ever.

Yes, this could possibly be one of the biggest wastes of computing power in existence. Luckily, there are other, proven, @home-like projects around. The Intel/United Devices cancer and genetic research distributed computing project has already found 80,000 - 240,000 chemical interactions which may help cure cancer. This on only 50,000 computer years of work. Other proven projects include Folding@home and Genome@home, both of which are contributing to research that helps fight diseases, including AIDS.

One in three people will have some form of cancer in their lives.

I'm not saying there's no other intelligent life in the universe. I'm saying that our planet and our exsistence may be much more unique than previously thought. Instead of scanning the skies on the miniscule hope that we might detect an alien civilization, perhaps we should work to make sure we live to see that day when the aliens finally do come knocking.

BOINC has a number of medical projects that you can join.

The Intel/United Devices project can be found here (Windows only):

For other OS's, check out the Folding@home project at http://www.stanford.edu/group/pandegroup/Cosm/ and the Genome@home at http://gah.stanford.edu/ .

Also of worthy note is the distributed.net project, which works to advance the technology of distributed computing altogether by cracking various encryption schemes: http://www.distributed.net

Some sources:
http://www.newsbytes.com/news/02/176219.html , http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/ , http://members.ud.com/projects/cancer/index.htm

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