Monday, May 23, 2016

Would You Consider Using Your Computer For A Good Cause?

As a number of my followers and fans know, I'm a huge supporter of space exploration and years ago I was introduced to the SETI program and there was an opportunity to allow them to use your personal computer during its downtime to crunch data looking for radio signals from distant stars. I was a member for about a year, but my Internet speed at that time was dismal (in fact my home account still crawls) and with computer problems, I reluctantly left the program after a year of data crunching.

Some weeks ago, having a faster computer and Internet connection at my place of work, I looked up the old SETI program to see what new news they had.

I was delighted to read they are part of a much larger organization: The Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC), that supports volunteer and grid computing not only for the original SETI@home project, but now as a platform for other areas as diverse as mathematics, linguistics, medicine, molecular biology, climatology, environmental science, and astrophysics.

On May 16th, I joined MilkyWay@Home that uses volunteer computers to create a 3D map of the Carina–Sagittarius Arm of the galaxy we call home. Since then, as of this morning, in my computer's downtime, it has contributed 26.69 quadrillion floating-point operations to the MilkyWay@Home project. 

Not bad work for a mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, Bible thumper who writes dark fantasy romances with a body count.

I also joined a team of 60 people that are working together for the project and as of this morning, I had jumped up to #33 for most processing done.

It's a lot of fun and no, I do not get paid. The only satisfaction is knowing I am helping build a 3D model of the galaxy which piques my interest.

If you would like to do something similar, the process is very simple:

  1. Go to the BOINC website.
  2. Choose a project from the list of  39 projects.
  3. Download the software.
  4. Register for an account.
  5. Run the software and watch it crunch data that adds invaluable information to various worlds of science. Who knows? It might be your computer that crunches the final data that finds our interstellar neighbors, comes up with a cure for malaria, makes breakthrough in climate study, or finds the asteroid that causes the next great extinction event!

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