Fat Girl Wearing Thin

Life beyond the loss.

   Mar 03

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 :)

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Thanks for the mention and kind words, and thank your also for sharing more info about these projects. I’ve heard about grid computing, but I didn’t know their purpose or how they worked. I’ll definitely explore some more!

    • Ellen says:

      I had never heard of grid computing in my life but my husband has had SETI running on his computer for months and I never even paid attention to it! It wasn’t until he starting tinkering with my things that I perked up (I’ve gotta start paying attention, more!) lol

  2. That’s AMAZING!! I am definitely going to look into this!

    • Ellen says:

      Karen, this thing really is amazing, and I’d never heard of it before. One of the other cool things about it is that it’s kind of like a lottery. The more time you give to the project, the better the chance that your personal computer has of actually finding a crucial piece of information – if that happens, you get credit for it.

  3. Tim says:

    That’s pretty cool! I know what I am going to be doing tonight :)

    Maybe i’ll have a better chance of contacting my mother ship to send me back to Planet Timbo :)

  4. All the projects look really interesting, it’s fantastic that you’re raising awareness for them. I’ll be downloading one imminently!

  5. Blubeari says:

    I have heard about those and I think they are great programs. :-) Maybe we won’t all be a leading contributor to the advancement of our society, but I like it when there are small ways that we can help. :-)

  6. Leslie says:

    I think our husbands might have a true Bromance if you didn’t live in another state–my husband runs both BOINC and SETI@home :)

    • Ellen says:

      Leslie, I think this is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. I had to share with my husband that they both were doing the same thing. His response: ‘that’s because we’re COOL’. Definitely a blooming Bromance. Truly makes me wish we lived closer! I need some serious encouragement on doing a pull-up!!

  7. Michele says:

    Thanks for the interesting post. I had heard of it, but never investigated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *