ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Monday, November 21, 2005

World Community Grid

I've had the World Community Grid application installed on my home PC for quite some time now. Previously, the grid was used to analyze protein folding and leverages the computing power of all the idle computers on the 'net. Over the weekend, the screensaver that appears to show the item that the computer is currently analyzing changed to the FightAIDS@Home - and let me tell you, the graphic diagrams of the chemical compounds being analyzed are much weirder than the previous proteins. This is a great project (created by IBM) and everyone should install it.

A virtual supercomputer grid, created by IBM (NYSE:IBM) will allow individuals and businesses to donate down-time on their personal computers via a secure website. The idle PCs will be used to run millions of computations in the search for chemical compounds that could eventually provide more effective HIV therapies, the company was to announce Monday.

"This project was created about a year ago . . . essentially to create a virtual supercomputer devoted specifically to humanitarian purposes," said Stanley Litow, IBM vice-president for corporate community relations.

"We've been working over the last year to build the number of PCs that are connected and we've also been working on a first research project, analyzing all the proteins in the human body," Litow told The Canadian Press from New York.

"But now we are adding this AIDS project. This is brand new to the grid, and the idea is to take years off of the research that would be required to find a cure for AIDS."

The project, dubbed FightAIDS(at)Home, involves virtual testing of hundreds of thousands of chemical compounds to see how they react to a particular protein of the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.

Computations use a 3-D modelling technique, which will show whether chemical compound molecules will attach themselves to the much larger HIV protein molecule - and exactly where on its structure, said project leader Dr. Arthur Olson.

Olson, a molecular biologist at the non-profit Scripps Research Institute, likened the process of seeking the right fit - called "docking" - to an ant crawling over a potato, looking for a spot it likes and settling on one of the spud's eyes.

"The idea is if we can find a compound (that fits) into the business end of one of the proteins that the virus depends upon, we can kind of gum up the works," Olson said from La Jolla, Calif. "We can stop it from functioning and then you have a potential drug to fight the virus."

Compounds that dock well would then be tested in Olson's laboratory to see what effect they have on HIV in test-tube and animal research. Promising compounds would be published in open-access scientific journals so that other researchers could retrieve data for their own experiments.

It doesn't use any computer resources until your pc goes into idle state (ie overnight or after extended periods without user interaction) and you can customize how and when it turns itself on. Companies and organizations that register the app are recognized for the combined computing power that they provide.

Here's some more information on how this works:
Grid Computing: The Basics
Grid computing joins together many individual computers, creating a large system with massive computational power that far surpasses the power of a handful of supercomputers. Because the work is split into small pieces that can be processed simultaneously, research time is reduced from years to months. The technology is also more cost-effective, enabling better use of critical funds.
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Changing Our World Now
Grid computing is not a futuristic technology. World Community Grid is at work right now applying this technology to exciting research projects that can benefit us all.

Our first project, Human Proteome Folding, is identifying the proteins produced by human genes. With this information, scientists can understand how defects in proteins can cause disease, making it easier to find cures.

In 2003, with grid computing, in less than three months scientists identified 44 potential treatments to fight the deadly smallpox disease. Without the grid, the work would have taken more than one year to complete.

For more information or to register yourself, go to http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler