Thursday, April 03, 2008

Join the Team

Ever heard of distributed computing? It's pretty cool.

Some kinds of scientific research require a great deal of computer processing; far more than an individual computer or even a supercomputer is capable of providing. In today's world, some of that processing can be parceled out to individual computers throughout the world, via the Internet.

Programs have been written that, once installed, make use of any given computer's idle CPU time to perform the required calculations or processing tasks. The software connects to the central server to download a task, completes the task, uploads the results and retrieves a new task.

All of this is invisible to the user (unless you open it up to peek) because its priority is set low enough that any other process running on the computer (like, say, playing a game or checking your email...or moving your mouse) takes priority.

I signed up for one of those projects a long time ago, but my computer and my connection were both so low-end at the time, that I don't think it made any difference. Now that so many of us have broadband connections, there's no reason not to get back into it.

And there's a good reason to do so.

Bob's mother was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer's Disease this week. His friends are all, of course, sending best wishes, prayers, positive energy, healing thoughts, etc. But you want to actually do something, don't you?

This morning, Bob asked me to help him do some Googling and see if I could find a click-a-day site to benefit Alzheimer's research. There are a whole series of sites, which I've been meaning to link to myself, that are advertiser-supported in such a way that an actual (if tiny) cash donation is made to the cause of your choice each time you click through. They have them for hunger, breast cancer, child health, literacy, rainforest-saving, and animal rescue. (I'll add the buttons here soon.)

But I couldn't find anything like that for Alzheimer's or other health research.

In the course of searching, however, I saw something that reminded me about the distributed computing projects, and when I looked into that, I found out that the largest distributed computing project in the world is Folding@Home, a Stanford University project designed to "perform computationally intensive simulations of protein folding and other molecular dynamics."

And, it just so happens that:

Accurate simulations of protein folding and misfolding enable the scientific community to better understand the development of many diseases, including sickle-cell disease (drepanocytosis), Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, BSE (mad cow disease), cancer, Huntington's disease, cystic fibrosis, osteogenesis imperfecta, alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, and other aggregation-related diseases.

So there you go. Something easy and free we can all do to help out, albeit indirectly. You just download the software (very small and quick download) and run it once. After that, it's on its own and will be invisible to you unless you poke around and find out more about what it's doing. It will start itself up when you turn on the computer, and keep itself out of your way when you're using it. And when you stop typing for a moment, or stare out the window, or get a phone call, or leave the computer to go get a snack? It will run calculations that further the cause of medical research. Win/win.

Here's the Folding@Home main page.
The Folding@Home FAQ page, if you want to learn more.
The Folding@Home download page, if you're already convinced.

In order to increase their appeal, these projects maintain statistics so you can compete with other donors or form teams. If you decide to participate in the project, join our team! We called it Phy's Mom, and to join it, all you have to do is paste the number 120652 in the "Team" box you'll see as soon as your install is complete.

If you want to do this but have any trouble, just email me (or leave a comment) - I can probably walk you through it.


pidomon April 03, 2008 6:01 PM  

i believe i did everything correct but well its me
if you dont see me as a team member let me know

Jennifer April 03, 2008 8:37 PM  

Yup. I'm told it's all in order. Thanks, man!

And there you have it, folks. If Jr. here can do it, so can you!

For real. It takes longer to read that big honkin' post up there than to set this thing up.

pidomon April 03, 2008 8:41 PM  

I didnt realize the adoption papers had come through :)

Bob April 03, 2008 8:43 PM  

Now, son, you listen to maw, y'hear!?

A click a day for good causes

The Hunger Site The Breast Cancer Site The Child Health Site The Literacy Site The Rainforest Site The Animal Rescue Site

Added 6/12/06

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