Have you ever thought that your computer can help scientists solving critical world problems like cancer, AIDS and global warming? This can be achieved thanks to distributed computing. This technology allows to use your computer as if it were just one of many CPUs all joined via the net to form a supercomputer. Once it has processed a package of data it connects to a centre to upload the results and download new materials.
If just a small percentage of the world’s estimated 650 million PCs were doing so, it would result in the creation of a huge amount of calculating power, enough to solve problems that would otherwise take years. You can help find cures for diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, search for cosmic gravitational waves (whatever they are) or help in the hunt for extraterrestrial intelligence. There are many projects you can join and two main platforms you can install:
- BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) is a free, open-source software. You can select which of the nine projects to help.
- WCG (World Community Grid) is founded by IBM and currently hosts 5 projects.
When choosing a project, always check the intellectual property of the results which have to be available to the whole scientific community. Some projects that at the moment need particular help are Rosetta@Home, Einstein@Home, SIMAP, World Community Grid, specifically Human Proteome Folding and FightAIDS.
Other three interesting and easy ways on how digital technologies can help us to make a difference with not a great effort are:
The Hunger Site, where you click in the main page the ‘give’ button to see lots of little banner which should pay to sustain different projects, from protecting the rain forest to sustain the research against breast cancer.
FreeRice, where you play a challenging word game and for every right answer you donate grains of rise distributed by the United Nations World Food Program.
Kiva, where you can lend small amounts of money to people in developing countries to support their projects.