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Ask Dr. SETI ®

Chapter 6: Technology

TeraFlop Processors for Project Argus

Dear Dr. SETI:
Is it theoretically possible now with the availability of 4 TeraFlop desktop computers (Tesla GPU processors) to write and run DSP programs that will reach far deeper under the noise than what is currently possible? Do you think it would make a large impact on Project Argus?

Eugene in VA

The Doctor Responds:
Of course, any improvement in computing power will positively impact SETI research. As for the Project Argus radio telescopes, their current limitation is not so much in CPU speed as it is in DSP hardware. Most of our members are currently using sound cards or Software Defined Radios as analog-to-digital converters, and I'm not sure the present generation of those devices will benefit all that much from faster processing - they are bandwidth limited in hardware. So, it will probably be necessary for a new generation of sound cards (or suitable SDRs) to be developed, before we can avail ourselves of TeraFlop processing speeds.

Rest assured, Eugene, that somebody will most certainly develop the required DSP interface devices in due course, and we will then avail ourselves of their capabilities. But, for now (at least in the Project Argus context), the new processors remain a solution in search of a problem.

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