You may not have a supercomputer at home, but that doesn't mean your laptop can't join the world's fastest machines in the fight against the coronavirus-caused COVID-19. A volunteer project called Folding@home has organized tens of thousands of ordinary personal computers -- like yours -- to break down big digital simulations of the virus that causes the disease into millions of bite-size chunks.
Folding@home aims to understand disease mechanisms at the molecular level then find weaknesses that medicines can exploit. Its software, for Windows, Linux and MacOS PCs, fetches a small processing job from the organization's servers, runs its calculations, then returns results to be incorporated into research studies. When it's done, your machine fetches the next job.
For two decades Folding@home has tackled diseases, including Alzheimer's and Ebola. The pandemic has bumped COVID-19 to the top of the list, though, and lots more people now want to help. The world's computers have an abundance of unused processing power. Video editors, music producers and heavy-duty gamers have to sleep, and Folding@home's distributed computing approach can keep PCs busy when their human owners aren't.
The response to COVID-19 has spurred "enormously rapid growth" during the last three weeks, with more than 700,000 new volunteers joining the 30,000 who were already active, says Greg Bowman, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Washington University in St. Louis and Folding@home's director.
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