Oh wow, this is pretty cool! I just discovered this project known as Folding@Home. It’s a project by Stanford University where you can donate all your unused computing power towards biomedical research!
You can donate your unused computing resources to help with research on Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and many different types of cancers.
These research projects revolve around the study of how proteins fold. I don’t really know much about this, but from the little I understand, proteins have a certain way of folding. And diseases come about when they fold incorrectly (something like that, I think). But figuring out the ways proteins fold is something that requires a massive amount of computation. I think the algorithm is doing some kind of brute force method to simulate all the various possible ways of folding a protein to see which ways work and which ways don’t.
Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, this research can be divided up into small pieces and shared by as many computers as possible. Otherwise, such research would take years even on a supercomputer. The scale of the computation is sooooo large that it can only be solved in a short time by outsourcing it to all the people around the world.
There are a few options available on how you can donate your computer’s resources to this research. You can either set aside a percentage of your computer’s processing power to carry out the computation whenever your computer is turned on. Or, if you are worried that it might cause your computer to lag, you can choose to enable it to carry out the computation whenever you are not in front of your computer (i.e. when it goes into screensaver mode).
What’s cool about this project is that you can view the progress of the research either on their progress viewer program or via the screensaver (you’ll have to change your screensaver to that). You can see the proteins being folded in all the different possible ways, bit by bit. Like this:
You can’t really see much different within a span of an hour. But if you check back like 5 or 10 hours of computation later, you’ll see a big change! It’s pretty cool and quite geeky too!
If you use a laptop, you’ll notice your laptop getting hotter than usual. Don’t worry (unless you use it on your lap)! Your laptop won’t explode. It’s just the processor working a lot harder than usual.
So don’t let your dual-core or quad-core processor go to waste. Donate all that computing power to help find a cure for cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or something!
Who knows? Maybe your computer might find something groundbreaking that will bring about cures to these diseases! I think they’ll tell you if that happens.
So don’t wait! You can find out more about Folding@Home and install the program at http://folding.stanford.edu/