In Search of…… a Cure for Malaria – and, Aliens?
While reading Cammy’s wonderful blog over at Tippy Toe Diet a while back, she posted about a few websites that do some seriously good work around the Internet – one of which I signed up for (thanks, Cammy!) I’ve always thought that no act of kindness is too small. Each of us has the ability to change lives. Besides, who doesn’t like good Karma, right?
Recently here at home, I noticed my husband tinkering with my laptop computer. I asked what he was doing and he said that he was installing a program called BOINC. “What’s that?” I asked. “Well,” he said. “It’s a program that uses grid computing and runs when the computer is in screensaver mode. It will use our spare computer time to assist in scientific research.”
What he said next was pretty exciting but I don’t remember much because he started using ‘computer-speak’ and lost me about halfway through our discussion. Basically, this is what BOINC is in plain English:
BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) is based out of Berkeley University in California and relies on volunteers to use his/her computer’s idle time (when it’s in screensaver mode) to aid in important scientific research, such as curing diseases, studying global warming, and discovering pulsars. BOINC lets you contribute computing power on your personal computer to various important projects in many scientific areas.
Pretty cool, huh? One of the projects that we chose to participate in is called Rosetta@home and is lead by David Baker. He is a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Washington. He does a much better job at explaining his project than I could:
Rosetta@Home needs your help to determine the 3-dimensional shapes of proteins in research that may ultimately lead to finding cures for some major human diseases. By running the Rosetta program on your computer while you don’t need it you will help us speed up and extend our research in ways we couldn’t possibly attempt without your help. You will also be helping our efforts at designing new proteins to fight diseases such as HIV, Malaria, Cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
It’s pretty cool to see our chosen project at work when our computers go into screensaver mode. It may not be as visually exciting as watching virtual fish swimming on our screen but we feel like we’re contributing to something important. The project that my laptop is assisting in is one of many from World Community Grid which is performing chemistry experiments by creating virtual proteins that could aid in the cure for Neuroblastoma, a deadly cancerous tumor found in children. You can find out more about this specific project here.
Being an astronomy buff, my husband is also running the SETI@Home project on his computer. I’m including the description for this one specifically for Tim (Fat.Boy.Thin) as I recently read that he’d love the possibility of a personal encounter with an alien – Tim, this could be your chance!
Description: SETI@Home is a scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). You can participate by running a free program that downloads and analyzes radio telescope data. Your computer will analyze packets of information looking for a radio signal from space and then send that information back to the project center.
There are many projects that need our idle computer time. Maybe you’ll find one that you’d like to participate in and and in return contribute to finding the cure for a disease, understanding climate change, or search for gravity waves in space.
Or, if you live on the wild side – maybe make contact with an alien