I found an article with a nice list of distributed computing projects, if anyone is interested…
I also added an extra one at the bottom. Enjoy!
Distributed computing is one of the wonderful ways that you can use your PC to contribute to more thoughtful, worldly causes than keeping your room warm during a cloudy summer day. These projects, made up of members from all corners of the world (even Maximum PC’s own forums), make use of your computer during its idle periods. Whether they’re come as a screensaver that launches after a set period of time, or a background application that launches after a certain period of CPU inactivity, these free applications divvy out the tasks of a large, complicated project to a number of people at once.
Why should you care? Because distributed computing is a nice way to use a minimal amount of your system’s resources–resources that you wouldn’t be using anyway–to contribute to something greater than yourself. It’s entirely altruistic in its purpose. Very, very few distributed computing projects have some kind of monetary award attached to the work, and you’d have to score a major knock-out in your individual contribution to the project to see the result. That is, your computer would have to be the one that finds the next huge prime number, or major breakthrough in protein analysis, or something to that effect. If you’re in it for a reward, you might as well develop a program that estimates lottery odds.
You’ll find that entities like Maximum PC, amongst others, have teams of people contributing to these distributed computing projects. It’s a great way to make friends and fellow geeks–in fact, I’d probably be strung up by this site’s forum folk if I didn’t include a shout-out to their work on the Folding@Home project. +10 Light Side points for you.
What it is: Stanford University says it best. “Proteins are biology’s workhorses — its “nanomachines.” Before proteins can carry out these important functions, they assemble themselves, or “fold.” The process of protein folding, while critical and fundamental to virtually all of biology, in many ways remains a mystery.
Moreover, when proteins do not fold correctly (i.e. “misfold”), there can be serious consequences, including many well known diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s disease, and many Cancers and cancer-related syndromes.”
Your goal? Use your computer to fold proteins (as a part of Maximum PC’s team, if you so desire). You can set the program to use as much or as little of your CPU as you desire, and you can even download versions of Folding@home that make use of your GPU as well. Crazy, high-performance stuff–for a good cause, of course.
Download it here!
What it is: Unlike chaos theory’s Butterfly Effect, popularized by the speculation that the beating of a butterfly’s wings could trigger a tornado in a distant location on the Earth, Climateprediction.net has nothing to do with trying to plot out storm predictions or anything super-fun like that. Instead, the program helps scientists gain a deeper understanding of the variables that affect future climate change. You’re helping them to run the subtle tweaks in their experiments on a grand scale, improving the ability of these complex projections to accurately reflect future possibilities.
Still, no tornados.
Download it here!
What it is: You’re too late to earn the $100,000 cash prize, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation still has other monetary rewards up for grabs. The catch? You have to be the person that helps discover prime numbers with exceedingly large numbers of digits in them. Give ‘er a shot as part of the GIMPS distributed computing network–many, many computers all contributing to the goal of finding increasingly larger prime numbers. How large? The $100,000 winner’s 3.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo-based PC took 29 days to run the calculations on the 12,837,064-digit prime number. That’s quite a hefty number.
Download it here!
What it is: Insert your favorite science-fiction theme here. SETI@home is a distributed computing project that uses the computers of many to help scan the stars for signs of extraterrestrial life. Although it’s not your computer that’s doing the star-searching per se. Rather, you’re merely helping to analyze the data that’s already been collected by radio telescopes. Who knows–you could be the one to start a war with an intergalactic species!
Download it here!
What it is: Ever feel like turning your PC into a particle accelerator? That’s one mighty overclock. Sadly, you won’t be crashing real atoms into each other as part of the Muon1 project. However, you will be helping to run simulations of the following scenario: “You are simulating the part of the process where the proton beam hits the target rod and causes pions to be emitted, which decay into muons. These would then proceed to a storage ring and decay into electrons and the neutrinos that are used for experiments. ”
But don’t think that you’re just doing this for the heck of it. The results of the distributed computing effort will affect the chances of funding for the project’s ultimate goal: firing particles through Earth’s interior, then measuring the changes to determine a neutrino’s mass.
Just try not to create any black holes, eh?
Download it here!
Here’s the extra one:
What might you get by crossing SETI@Home with the movie Saturn 3? Quite possibly Bruce Damer’s new distributed computing effort EvoGrid, which strives to create a plausible simulation of the chemical origins of life on Earth by replicating these origins in a digital environment. Damer is a Silicon Valley computer scientist and the creator of the Biota.org web site, which is dedicated to the engineering of artificial life.
Damer’s objective is to create a digital replication of early Earth’s “primordial soup.” From this he believes it possible to learn about the actual evolution of life on Earth, as well as gain insight into the possible creation of artificial life. Damer’s project will make use of Bionic, the National Science Foundation’s system that makes available free computing cycles on Internet networked computers, and Gromacs, software developed by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, which will model the molecular interactions. According to John Markoff of The New York Times, “The EvoGrid goal is to detect evidence of self-organizing behavior in computerized simulations that have been constructed to model the first emergence of life in the physical world.”
Damer’s efforts are not unique. The idea of digital artificial life was developed in the 1940s by John von Neumann and Stanislaw Ulam at the Lost Alamos Laboratory. An early effort was ecologist Thomas Ray’s Tierra, which made use of 1000 networked workstations to simulate the mutation of digital forms. What makes Damer’s efforts different is the high powered computing environment at his disposal. The Bionic system connects more than a half million computers, and averages 2.45 petaflops of computing power.