Would you like to help cure muscular dystrophy? How about cancer? Find new influenza antiviral drugs? Fight AIDS?
Even if you don’t have a background in science or medicine, you can contribute. It’s easier that you think, thanks to a technology called grid computing. Grid computing creates a system of many individual computers that have greater computational power that a handful of supercomputers. The computational work is split into small pieces that happen simultaneously. The result? Research time can be reduced from years to months. As an example, in 2003 scientists using grid computing identified 44 potential treatments to fight smallpox. Without the grid, the research would have taken more than a year.
You can contribute to this important research by connecting your computer to the grid. Here’s what you do. Register your computer with the World Community Grid, an organization whose mission is to “create the world’s largest public computing grid to tackle projects that benefit humanity.” Download and install a small program to your computer. When you’re not using it, your computer can request data from the WCG server. Then your computer performs computations on the data, and sends it back. The computations provide scientists with valuable information that helps their research.
According to their website, World Community Grid is making technology available only to public and not-for-profit organizations to use in humanitarian research that might otherwise not be completed due to the high cost of the computer infrastructure required in the absence of a public grid. All results will be in the public domain and made public to the global research community.
This entry is one in an ongoing series about how we can all be taking small steps to help one another in tough times. Read more by clicking on the category, “A Little Bit More.”
[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]