Monday, January 08, 2007

Sparing Time for Helping Humanity

PC time, that is. As I posted earlier, I've downloaded software from BOINC that allows distributed computing projects to use computer users spare time to do work on various projects for science. It all really got rolling with SETI at Home, the search for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, and blossomed into the medical field with projects on smallpox vaccines, and human protein folding which applies to many illnesses from cancer to AIDS. Collectively, the thousands of home computers add up to a super computer for each of these projects, often doing thousands of days of computer time in hundreds of days.

Out of gratitude for getting BOINC rolling, I give SETI about 1% of my spare computing time and devote most of it between two other projects. Both Rosetta@home and World Community Grid serve as coordinators for various simulations for medical researchers. While I'm never sure exactly what I'm working on from Rosetta, they have been involved in AIDS treatment research as well as trying to map out how proteins in the brain work for patients who have Alzheimers Disease. World Community Grid is something IBM started and hosts multiple projects that you can pick and choose from by setting up your profile. Not all are available to BOINC users, as they are also using a different platform from Currently, WCG has Help Defeat Cancer, FightAIDS@Home, Genome Comparison, Human Proteome Folding Phase 2, and are starting up Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy. I've concentrated my time on Cancer and Genome Comparison while occasionally beta testing the new software for the various programs. Right now HPF2 isn't out for BOINC and I'm eager to crunch data for that.

The most important one to me is the cancer program, it requires quite a bit of PC power to do and is a project to automate the diagnosis of lethal fast moving cancers by running slides of biopsies through scanners. Eventually, the algorithyms being perfected for this will allow diagnoses in days rather than weeks, which is critical with fast moving cancers.

I also give time to two other projects at a much lower priority. One is Spinhenge@home which is a nanotech research project into how different nanocarbon molecules react magnetically under a wide range of temperatures. Getting switching to work in nanoparticles will be a big achievement and open the doors to ever smaller electronics. The other project is SIMAP, which is a project to database protein simularities for researchers to access. Instead of having to reinvent the wheel every time they want to do molecular medicine comparisons, it will be in a pre-existing database. This project is intermittent and just finished a limited batch of data this past week. Blink and you miss out on this one.

There are many other projects out there, including one's aimed at finding pulsars, breaking cryptography, predicting climate shifts, even rendering 3D computer animations. Check out this site for a full listing of them.

These are my current BOINC based stats, back in the past I also crunched numbers for the SETI@home Classic and for's cancer and HPF1 programs.

Friday, January 05, 2007

2007 Begins

2007 has come around and I need to be posting more if I'm to improve my writing skills at all. Late November through the end of December was a manic period, with far too many things going on. The week leading into Christmas was an excellent one and I was more productive than I'd been in ages. But the one thing that stood out above all others was something that happened on Christmas Day while traveling to Indiana.

A stop at a filling station turned into an unusual chance to be of comfort to a young woman dying of cancer working the checkout. In order to make sure her two young daughters would have a Christmas to remember, she'd skipped two weeks of chemotherapy so that she could work to afford it and also have energy to make it all happen. Her doctor and some family were very angry about that decision, but it was clear the cancer was a fast mover and too far spread and she was being realistic about how long she had. Consequently, she wanted Christmas to be about family and we discussed that it is what life is about. I let her know that I thought she was doing the right thing and I hope it helped her in her ordeal. That night I prayed for at least an hour for her and her family while wishing there was more I could do. Strange how the real meaning of Christmas can be found in a filling station off of I-90 while so many buy into the commercialized distortion pushed so hard today.