Astronomical studies tap into the SkyNet - literally
Nick Gilbert
at 00:00 AM Sep 14 2011
SkyNet will be used to process data from antennas like these
Dragonfly Media for ASKAP

We all knew it had to happen eventually, but few expected it this early: Skynet has arrived.Only, instead of launching nukes, enslaving mankind, and more or less being a total pain, this version has a much more innocent purpose - to use the power of the crowd to keep an eye on space.

TheSkyNet project is headed up by the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), and is being operated in association with Curtin University and the University of Western Australia, says Computerworld Au.

The idea behind the project is to cut into the long data processing times required to sort through all of the data that radio telescopes collect on a routine basis, simply by tapping into the vast unused processing power of regular old desktop computers.

Peter Wheeler, ICRAR's education manager, told Computerworld that this combined CPU power will be used to look "for radio length emission coming from objects out in the universe and also running simulated data sets so the researchers... can overcome some of the challenges they need to in order to start processing things like ASKAP [Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder] data in the future."

The Parkes radio telescope typically records about 50mb of data every second, according to Dr Simon Johnston of the CSIRO. The Square Kilometre Array, which will be a much larger telescope, will produce many times that amount of data.

ICRAR plan to also integrate social media and social game mechanics into SkyNet, in order to try and entice users to loan some spare CPU cycles.

SkyNet seems similar to previous initiatives such as Folding@home, a distributed computing project started by Stanford University in order to better simulate folding of proteins and other molecules - the end goal being to better understand and combat various diseases and medical conditions.

[Computerworld Australia]

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