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Alan Recommends

Put your computer to work!

Did you know your computer only uses about 10% of its total processing power? Here's a suggestion from Alan that will put your computer to work - and let you get involved in fascinating science projects around the world.

EDUCATORS: Try this out as a class project!

Distributed Computing
Some computational problems are simply too big and costly for certain organizations to tackle. "Distributed computing" takes an enormous problem and divides it into many smaller tasks, all of which are then distributed to several computers via a network such as the Internet. Since most PCs use so little of their own processing capacities, they make ideal workhorses for such projects. As the individual computers complete their work, the data is sent back to the main server that then formulates the answer.

Check out these interesting projects:

The Golem Project
Help out Jordan Pollack (featured in the show Life's Really Big Questions) and his artificial intelligence team at Brandeis University by evolving the bodies and brains of electromechanical robots. Any creatures "born" on your PC are copyrighted to you!

Join in the search for extraterrestrial life. Your computer can help researchers look for signals from space by combing through mountains of data received by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. (Learn more about SETI in the Frontiers Web Feature "Is Anybody Out There?")

Use your computer to generate and test millions of candidate drug compounds that may be useful in the fight against HIV.
Take part in environmental clean-up by helping scientists design safer permanent storage containers for radioactive waste.

Try out protein folding. Your computer can help characterize and classify protein sequences, allowing scientists to sift through heaps of data from the Human Genome Project. Such efforts could provide valuable clues in the search for new drugs and cures for disease.

Mindpixel Digital Mind Modeling Project
Teach an artificially intelligent computer (named GAC) to think more like a human by filling its database with common sense statements such as "the sky is blue" or "birds can fly." NOTE: Unlike the other suggestions mentioned here, this project requires active human participation.

More on these and other distributed computing projects





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