15 February 2007
Where no detective has gone before
For eight years or so, SETI@home has been using people's spare CPU cycles to look for life on other worlds. While no certified aliens have been pinpointed yet, the system has apparently solved a crime:
Several years ago, [James] Melin installed SETI@home on his wife's laptop, which was stolen from the couple's Minneapolis home on Jan. 1.
Annoyed at the break-in and alarmed that someone could delete the screenplays and novels that his wife, Melinda Kimberly, was writing Melin monitored the SETI@home database to see if the stolen laptop would "talk" to the Berkeley servers. The laptop checked in three times within a week, and Melin sent the IP addresses to the Minneapolis Police Department.
Officers subpoenaed Quest Communications, Melin's Internet service provider, to determine the address where the stolen laptop logged onto the Internet. Within days, officers seized the computer and returned it to the rightful owners.
The only way this story could be happier would be if the thief were blasted into deep space.
(Via Bitter Bitch.)