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All it requires is the unused power of your computer, smartphone or other internet connected device.
Folding@Home (FAH) is a distributed computing project that harnesses the available resources of personal computers owned by volunteers all over the world to tackle one of the greatest challenges in modern medicine and biology.
What is "Folding" and Why Is It So Important?
"Folding" is the process by which organic proteins — the substances that make up our bodies' cells and vital organs — are formed into molecular chains that make them functional. Understanding how these proteins take shape, and modeling the myriad shapes these proteins can take, could shed light on how diseases such as cancer develop and how they could be cured or prevented.
However, analyzing the billions of possible folding combinations is a task beyond the capability of any single computer to handle in a reasonable amount of time. In 2000, Stanford University researcher Vijay Pande, PhD, launched a distributed computer network to handle the complex mathematical calculations required for protein folding research. Thus, Folding@Home was born.
Solving Problems Faster
Current FAH director Greg Bowman, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Washington University in St. Louis, says the project enables otherwise insurmountable research tasks to be completed far more efficiently.
"To model just one millisecond of folding, even for an average-size protein, on a top of the line MacBook Pro would take something like 500 years," Bowman said in an interview. "But with Folding@Home, we can split these problems into many independent chunks. We can send them to 1,000 people at the same time. Running those calculations in parallel, we can take problems that would have taken 500 years and instead solve them in six months."
Putting Your Computer To Work
FAH currently has more than 110,000 volunteers using their home/personal computers and other devices to perform these intense calculations. Its goal is to recruit 1 million folders.
Participants can choose the types of research they would like to contribute to — from cancer or Alzheimer's to antibiotic resistance. Many have signed up in honor of someone who is living with or has succumbed to one of the diseases being researched. Participants can also form or join teams whose statistics are tracked as a whole.
FAH links your home computer or mobile device to software that works with Windows, Mac, Linux or Android operating systems. The calculations use only the portion of your computer's power that is available at any given time — more when your device is idle, less when it is being used.
You can continue to use your device for other tasks while the folding calculations are performed in the background. Your device can perform the calculations at night or while you are away at work or school, all the while helping medical and biological researchers come closer to their goals. You can also devote to this effort a spare or slightly outdated device that you are not currently using regularly.
Think of it as YOUR chance to play a part, however small, in solving one of the greatest scientific challenges of our time... comparable to putting humans on the Moon or Mars!
For more information on FAH, or to sign up, visit https://foldingathome.org/.
If you would like to join Team Monroe St., our team number is 235367. You can also submit further questions or suggestions to our contact link above or to our Facebook page.