Thanks to distributed computing, I’m now able to donate my idle computer resources to some projects of great meaning to the entire human race. I first heard of SETI@home in a network technology related book. It’s an abbreviation of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Anyone who’s willing to help out the scientists can join the project and use their computer to process the data collected by various telescopes or other detection systems. Before that, these data of cosmic quantity only remained unanalyzed.
The whole process is easy. The software BOINC is developed by University of California Berkeley and it’ll quietly (or maybe not) do the work itself. It requires no specific knowledge of any work I’m going to do. And I can attach multiple projects to my account. BOINC processes the data downloaded from the hosts of the projects and send the work to their hosts back. I generously give it 10GB of my hard drive to store the data of projects.
It’s amazing that there’re so many interesting projects to join. Apart from SETI@home, I also saw building climate prediction models, studying particular proteins and others, the number of which I estimate can be over a hundred. I’m currently working on two climate prediction models. Because last week I read a paper on past climate changes. According to historical data, steady temperature increase has a great chance to be followed by a brutal collapse of the overflow of cold, denser water from Nordic sea into the Atlantic Ocean. But the consequences remain unclear. Scientists are building different models with various variants, in hope of a more precise prediction. I want to be part of it and joined climateprediction.net and was assigned these two models. With BOINC, I’m able to see the progress my computer makes visually. I love to see the little ball of dirt spinning itself, and one day- maybe after over 300 hours of work, I’ll be able to see the temperature, pressure and other information added to the earth.
Of course my computer have had heavier work load ever since. It’s unusual to hear the sound of the fan. And the CPU usage climbs to over 60 in average, while in the past it was somewhere around 20 when running a browser with 4 tabs + 2 IM clients +1 music player. But it’s OK 🙂
Oh, almost forgot. There’re online BOINC communities. I joined a team called “The IsraAliens!”. A brilliant name, eh? My roommates all agree that searching for extraterrestrial intelligence sounds absurd. I’m sort of frustrated 🙁 But I will attach that project soon- secretly 😛