If you’re reading this, it’s too late for me. you’re probably using a personal computer of some type. And as you read, your computer is most likely doing, well, approximately nothing. Sure, it’s keeping time, maybe playing a bit of light jazz and running a few background tasks. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s doing nothing. Your processor is likely just idly burning power.
So why not put that power to good use? For nearly five years now, my computers have been crunching data for the World Community Grid (WCG), a distributed-computing project which focuses on humanitarian projects. Although there are a number of similar grid-computing projects out there, I chose WCG because I believe what they do makes a real and positive impact on our world. Here are a few of their projects (source):
- Clean Energy Project — tries to find the best organic compounds for solar cells and energy storage devices.
- FightAIDS@Home — identifies candidate drugs that have the right shape and chemical characteristics to block HIV protease.
- Help Conquer Cancer — improves the results of protein X-ray crystallography in order to increase understanding of cancer and its treatment.
- Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy — investigates protein-protein interactions for more than 2,200 proteins whose structures are known, with a particular focus on those proteins that play a role in neuromuscular diseases. Currently on Phase 2.
- Help Fight Childhood Cancer — finds drugs that can disable three particular proteins associated with neuroblastoma.
- Human Proteome Folding Project — studies proteome folding in conjunction with Rosetta@home.
- Influenza Antiviral Drug Search — finds drugs that can stop the spread of influenza strains that have become drug resistant, as well as new strains.
- Nutritious Rice for the World — tries to predict the protein structure of rice in order to help rice breeders create more abundant, resilient and nutritious harvests. The project was finished in April 2010.
I can tell you from personal experience that using the BOINC software with WCG is totally painless. I run it as a background service, as opposed to a screensaver, and only occasionally look at the interface to see what’s happening. Whenever another program requires additional processing power, BOINC immediately yields its resources. I’ve never had a problem with this. However, you can also tell BOINC when it should run, and how much disk space, processing power, and RAM it may use. Currently two of my computers are on the grid – my personal laptop as well as this server. Check out my stats:
So if you’re looking for an easy way to save the world, join the World Community Grid.