Your computer can be put to good use even when its not in use, for now it's possible to donate the idle time to cutting-edge biomedical research aimed at finding a cure for HIV, Parkinson's, arthritis, and breast cancer.
University of Delaware's "Docking@Home" project, led by Michela Taufer, assistant professor of computer and information sciences, allows people to donate their computer's idle time to perform scientific calculations that will aid in creating new and improved medicines to thwart these major diseases.
Taufer explained that researchers should create molecular models and simulate their interactions to reveal possible candidates for effective drugs, which could then be put under laboratory testing. And such a simulation is called "docking".
As there are infinite combinations of molecules and their binding orientations, simulating them requires tremendous computing power.
Supercomputers often have a long waiting line or are too expensive to use for extended periods, said Taufer.
Thus, researchers have turned to citizen volunteers for help, which enables them to distribute the hundreds of thousands of computing tasks across a large number of computers.
Although the research is still in the validation stage, the process is aimed at studying new drugs.
"We are transforming a process in nature into computer steps-an algorithm," explained Taufer.
To volunteer your computer's idle time to do scientific calculations, it takes only a few simple steps highlighted on the project Web page (http://docking.cis.udel.edu/).
One can install a free, open-source software program called BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing), developed at the University of California, and link up to the Docking Server at the University of Delaware to become part of the network.
The computer's idle cycles are accessed automatically when it is not in use.
Currently, the 6,000 volunteers worldwide who currently are involved in UD's Docking@Home project are contributing to the completion of some 30,000 docking tasks per day, said Taufer.