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Research Roundup

16 January 2008

SETI@home needs volunteers

Although 170,000 dedicated volunteers are already using their home computers to help search for radio signals from alien civilizations, a burst of new data from the world's largest radio telescope means the SETI@home project (setiathome.berkeley.edu), based at Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory, needs more desktop computers to help crunch the data.

New receivers on the radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, are generating 500 times more data for the project than before. "That means we are 500 times more likely to find ET than with the original SETI@home," says project chief scientist Dan Werthimer.

Since 1992, Werthimer and his team have recorded signals from space and analyzed them for patterns that could indicate they were transmitted by an intelligent civilization. When the team's incoming data overwhelmed its ability to analyze it, the scientists conceived SETI@home, a distributed-computing project to harness many computers into one big supercomputer to do the analysis.

Economist examines costs of extreme cold weather

Fatalities in the continental U.S. tend to climb for several weeks after severe cold spells, ultimately numbering 360 per chilly day and 14,380 per year, according to a new study co-authored by Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti.

Deaths linked to extreme cold account for 0.8 percent of the nation's annual death rate, the study reports. Cold-related deaths also reduce the average life expectancy of Americans by at least a decade.

The study also says that people moving from colder climes to warmer ones - for reasons such as better jobs, cheaper housing, and sunshine - appear to delay an estimated 4,600 deaths a year. Over the past 30 years, longevity gains associated with geographic mobility accounted for between 4 and 7 percent of the increases in life expectancy in the U.S.

The report, "Extreme Weather Events, Mortality and Migration," is online at www.econ.berkeley.edu/~moretti/weather_mortality.