There has been a lot of hype about the power of the Cell processor residing inside the PlayStation 3. Whether or not we will see its full power being exploited remains to be seen, but it has been put to good use by medical researchers in America with the folding@home project.
I’m sure a lot of PS3 owners are unaware of the program folding@home residing on their PS3. This little piece of software has been designed by boffins at Stanford University in the USA, and is used to perform mathematical calculations of proteins when they misfold in the human body. I know you’re probably wondering what I’m wittering on about, so here’s what it is all about.
Proteins are the body’s nanomachines which are sent out to repair damaged parts of the body, but before they can do their work they need to ‘fold’, which basically means they arrange themselves to perform their alloted task. When the proteins misfold it can create problems, with the onset of many diseases such as Cancers, Alzheimers, Parkinsons disease or BSE.
The folding@home program is a distributed computing project, which basically bands together thousands of PS3’s and computers worldwide to create a supercomputer that can simulate these problems millions of times more complicated than ever before. This gives scientists great insight into how these diseases are created and eventually may help to find a cure, and help millions of people worldwide.
If you want to help, all you need to do is initialise the folding@home program on your PS3, which is found under the Life With Playstation application. Once it is up and running you can add a username and you can also join a team, and check your stats with other users worldwide. The Critical Gamer team number is 195069. So feel free to join us and do a bit of charity work after your gaming session has ended for the night.
What I usually do is leave the PS3 running for three or four hours at night and charge my pad, while folding@home works away. To do this, there is an automatic shutdown feature in the program, which lets you automatically power down the PS3 after a set amount of time. A work unit normally takes between 6-8 hours, so it’s probably best to finish the unit over two nights rather than straining your PS3 too much in one evening.
The folding@home client is also available for PC and Mac users, and is available to download free of charge from the Stanford University website. If you leave your computer on overnight, why not let it do some good? Or see if your boss will run the program on your work’s computer network? The more computers that run it, the quicker scientists can do some good with the data collated.
As well as helping the scientists, it will be a two fingered salute to certain national newspapers who like nothing more than to demonise our hobby. The PS3 has produced the most results for scientists trying to cure these diseases, from all the clients available. Let’s see if the newspapers will write about that!
You can find more information about the folding@home project on the folding@home website.