Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Fold to cure, and save lives!

You can help save lives. And it doesn't even require that you get up from your couch. You can continue reading this blog, your online newspaper, chat with your friends or simply surf on MySpace - all the time unfolding those mysterious proteins that cause abnormalities and serious diseases like cancer.

The project is known as Folding at Home. Started by Stanford professor Vijay Pande, it utilizes a computer's spare CPU cycles to compute and simulate complex protein structures. Anomalities in protein structure can result in diseases such as Alzheimer's, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, Huntington's, Parkinson's disease, and many Cancers and cancer-related syndromes.

Folding at Home is a distributed computing application, which is a tiny program you run on your computer. People all around the world download the folding client, let it run and the results of simulation are sent back to Stanford server. To encourage a healthy competition, each work unit one folds is benchmarked and awarded points.

Hardware enthusiastic all around the globe fold for the cure of cancer. This process also helps them burn in their systems, and is a good benchmarking tool for many. There are thousands of teams formed by such zealots and they contribute to the cause day and night.

There are some downsides to this activity. And I don't want to keep the readers in dark by not educating them about those drawbacks. However, rest assured there are solutions and reasons to all of them.
  1. 100% CPU usage causes wear and tear on processors. However, if a processor is not utilized fully, it will become outdated after 3-4 years anyways. So, that can be called its life time. This life time is not reduced by running a folding client.
  2. In case of laptops, heat and battery usage - folding client is configurable. You can set it to use only 25-50% of the total CPU cycles. Also, it only uses spare CPU cycles. If any other process uses 90% CPU power, only 10% is dedicated to folding client. Plus, it can be set to shutdown if laptop switches to battery, or is at a certain percentage of your battery power.

So, there actually is no reason why you shouldn't be folding. If you are worried about having to start it every time you turn it your system, or feeling lazy about it, you can set it as a service, and forget about it. There are tons of things you can do to monitor it as well.

If so far you have been interested in what I said, please go and visit their site. There are couple of more guides I am listing here.

Ultimate Folding Guide, Folding FAQs, Folding Tweaks, Official Stanford FAQ page.

I request anyone who reads this blog, to at least visit these links. Give it a shot, we can make a huge difference.


Turbo Tagger

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