Computers For Science Unite!

For the last several years now I've been running SETI@home on my computer. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the program, it refers to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a program run by the University of California at Berkeley. SETI folks realized that they had far more data (in the form of radio signals coming from stars) to analyze than computers to do it. Rather than just giving up and attributing all the info to ID (pardon me, I couldn't resist) they developed a program that allows home computers to download a small chunk of info, analyze if for artificial signals (which would indicate extraterrestrial intelligence), and send it back to SETI. The nice thing about the program is that you don't have to do anything except the initial download; the program downloads new info packages and sends them back to SETI for you. SETI is now running on roughly 500,000 home computers, the equivalent of around 100 trillion flops.

Since SETI (and the first distributed computing project, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search) a whole host of other distributed projects have sprung up (you can find most of them at http://distributedcomputing.info/projects/html).

One major group is associated with the Berkeley Open Source Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC). They now host SETI as well as several other projects that I'll describe below.

Climateprediction.net - Like the title suggests, this program creates climate models to help predict climage change in the future. A paper was recently published in the journal Nature describing some of their early results.

Einstein@Home - This program searches for pulsars in the attempt discover gravity waves. It uses data from the LIGO and GEO gravitation wave detectors.

LHC@home - Help particle physicists at CERN determine through simulations whether particles traveling through the Large Hadron Collider will have stable orbits.

Predictor@home - The ultimate goal of this program is to predict protein structures from protein sequences.

Two other programs will be added to the BOINC network soon, PlanetQuest and Orbit@home.

Some other interesting programs:.

evolution@home - Its purpose? To help uncover the genetic causes for species extinction.

Folding@home - Help determine how proteins self-assemble.

fightAIDS@home - This program seeks to design new drugs in the battle against AIDS.

BOLERO - An attempt to create a new antibiotic based on an antifungoid peptide.

CHRONOS - Analyzes the relationships between the chromosomes of the human genome.

There are many more programs out there, but these are the ones I found to be the most interesting. So, no matter your taste, you too can aid science. All it takes is a few clicks of the mouse and you can say you're doing your part. And you get some pretty nifty looking screen savers as well!

No comments: