Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Getting Hooked on the (World Computing) Grid

As promised, below is a listing of the distributed computing projects the World Community Grid is hoping you will join.  The various projects are focused on solving important problems in public health, disease, and alternative energy research.  You don't need to help with them all, but volunteering computer time to just one or two of these projects is always appreciated. 
  • Computing for Clean Water: Creating a high-technology but ultra-cheap method for cleaning dirty water requires careful understanding of how water flows through the filter.  This project examines the molecular dynamics of water flowing through nanotubes, thought to be one of the more promising ways to a highly-effective, cost-efficient water filtration system of the future.
  • Help Fight Childhood Cancer: Help test over 3 million potential drugs that can bind and block three specific proteins involved in neuroblastoma, one of the more common types of childhood cancer.
  • Help Conquer Cancer:  To better understand proteins involved in cancer formation and growth scientists first need to isolate and crystallize them as a way to understand their shape.  Crystallizing is the tricky part and requires millions of attempts (by robots) to find just the right conditions to cause crystallization.  This project analyzes images of each cystallization attempt to determine how well each worked and decide the best way to improve the process.
  • FightAIDS@Home: Help scientists stop the AIDS virus from maturing inside infected cells by searching for drugs that perfectly cling to and de-activate part of the AIDS virus called HIV Protease. 
  • The Clean Energy Project (Phase II): This project first attempted to increase the efficiency of solar cells by identifying organic molecules that best collect, store and transfer energy from the sun. By testing a massive number of potential candidates through distributed mathematical modeling scientists hoped to greatly increase solar cell efficiencies and test the best ways to manufacture them. Now that many candidates have been discovered Phase II will look to further narrow the candidate pool by performing detailed calculations at the quantum mechanical level.
  • Discovering Dengue Drugs - Together (Phase II); The project's first phase tested nearly 3 million "small drug-like molecules" to find ones that can successfully stop Dengue, West Nile, and other viruses from replicating inside infected cells.  Phase II is narrowing down the most promising drug candidates from Phase I to the most effective replication blockers, and thus the best candidates for future drugs. 
  • Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy (Phase II): The project's first phase aimed to understand how 168 different human proteins interact with each other and their biological environment.  With that complete the project is looking to understand interactions for 2200 more proteins.  Many of these are associated with Muscular Dystrophy and other neuromuscular diseases, so understanding these proteins is vital to understanding the disease.
  • Human Proteome Folding (Phase II): The project's first phase successfully characterized the basic structure of a number of both natural human proteins as well as some (dangerous) pathogen proteins.  The second phase aims to understand them in even greater detail and better understand how the protein actually functions.
Getting Started is Easy:
  1. Review the sites above to find the projects of most interest to you.
  2. Visit http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/ and click the "Join Today" button.  All you need is a username, e-mail, and password to sign up.
  3. Download the project software on the Download web page and allow it to install on your computer.
  4. Launch the program, sign in with your username and password.
  5. Click on "New Project" and attach yourself to the projects that most interest you.  You can also sign onto the World Community Grid: My Projects page to control which projects to work on.
  6. That's all there is to it.  Let your computer do all the work while you go outside (play with the kids, read a book, whatever your heart desires) and have fun!
Is there anything I missed?  Just let me know in the comments below.

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