Searching for ET: When the Crowd Supports the Sciences
February 28, 2012
There is no doubt that for most of us mathematics was not our most fascinating and popular school subject. However, since time-consuming calculation of data is an essential prerequisite in modern science this area is also relying on support from the crowd.
Using an open-source program provided by the University of California in Berkeley, CPU intensive projects can be transferred by means of a network to the PCs of participating volunteers. Currently, approximately 570,000 personal computers are participating in the science projects. This enormous computing power can achieve twice as much as the fastest high-performance computer. Apart from the United States, Germany is also providing a large amount of computing power.
In Germany, the most popular website in this area is probably the German offshoot of SETI@home. Software for participation in SETI@home has been available as a download since 1999. With the help of their PC, every participant enables the scientists at Berkeley University to search the universe for extraterrestrial life in outer space. By doing so Internet-connected computers have already produced 2.3 million CPU years.
But not only astronomers rely on the impact of the crowd. Several biomedical projects are also relying on the principle of distributed computing. Currently these networks are engaged in fighting a number of diseases including AIDS, leishmaniosis and malaria.
The number of distributed computing projects that can be processed is practically limitless. Nevertheless, despite the elation about joint problem solving, volunteers must not forget that when their PCs are operating at full load they will consume much more electricity than under normal household conditions.
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