Hundreds of thousands of users worldwide donate the power of their computers to research the corona virus. This is how the fastest computer in the world was created.
Proteins are vital. Simply put, these proteins are small molecular machines that perform important functions in our body. They are responsible for the muscles moving, they carry oxygen and they are part of hair and nails.
Viruses also have proteins with which they can reproduce and suppress our immune system. Researchers therefore want to understand as exactly as possible what the proteins of the coronavirus look like and how they move to find a vaccine. However, the calculation and simulation of the so-called protein folding is complex and expensive.
Ferrari among the supercomputers
This is where the Folding @ Home project at Stanford University comes into play. Users provide researchers with the computing power of their PCs for calculations. The project has grown rapidly in the past few weeks. In the meantime, the private PC network has an output of 2.4 exaflops. That is 2,400,000,000,000,000,000 so-called flops.
Flops are the horsepower (PS) of computers, so to speak. Compared to previous supercomputers, the folding network is a Ferrari among cumbersome minivans and 15 times faster than the fastest supercomputer in the world. The network has also combined more power than all previous Top 500 supercomputers. The operators reported this via Twitter.
Everyone can participate
Previous supercomputers have not become superfluous due to the US project. You can do it more accurately and can perform large calculations faster, defying lower performance. In the folding network, on the other hand, it takes a little longer to get a result because the data first has to be broken down into small work units.
While the construction of supercomputers can quickly swallow up hundreds of millions, Folding @ Home is based on the voluntary nature of the users. Interested parties can participate with the appropriate software . In addition to corona virus research, the project also researches Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases.
The concept of distributed computing is not new. The best-known project of this kind is Seti @ Home. Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti) has been used to search for extraterrestrial life since 1999. Data from telescopes in Puerto Rico and the United States has been distributed to thousands of computers. In March 2020, the Seti @ Home project was put on hold to evaluate the data analyzed so far.