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The Einstein@Home distributed computing project is enlisting a rapidly growing army of computer users in a search for Einstein's elusive gravitational waves. Within three weeks of its February 19th kickoff, the program—which allows home computer users to help confirm Einstein's predictions about gravity-became one of the fastest growing distributed computing projects in the world, adding roughly a thousand users a day. More than 55,000 people from over 115 countries had signed up for the Einstein@Home program as of March 14, 2005-the 126th anniversary of Albert Einstein's birth.
"I'm thrilled with the response we've gotten in such a short time," says Einstein@Home principal investigator Bruce Allen of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "The growing number of participants increases the computing power available to us, and improves our odds of finding something. Were we to find a signal in this way, it would be an exceptional moment for both theoretical and experimental physics. It would also be the first such scientific breakthrough that was enabled by public distributed computing."
Einstein@Home allows anyone from elementary school children to the most advanced astrophysicists to participate in the quest for gravitational waves. These waves are subtle ripples in space and time predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity. The software necessary to join in the search can be downloaded and run by anyone with Internet access.
Einstein@Home searches the vast amounts of data collected by the US Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the British/German GEO-600 gravitational wave observatory for waves coming from compact objects such as quark stars and neutron stars. Einstein@Home is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems. The program provides a screensaver that shows the celestial sphere with the major constellations outlined. A moving marker on the screensaver indicates the portion of sky that your computer is searching. Einstein@Home web page: http://einstein.phys.uwm.edu/.
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