An Easy Way for Atheists to Help a Good Cause

Reader Brian explains:

Folding@Home is basically a distributed computing project designed to cure diseases like cancer and Alzheimers. It works by borrowing spare CPU cycles from people who install the program on their computer.

If you’d like to help out, just download the software and type in #182116 in the “team” box during setup (so that your points get counted toward the Atheists, Skeptics, & Humanists team).

They’re currently ranked 88 — can we make it any better?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Timothy

    Wait, I’m sorry, how does this work?

    • Anonymous

      FAH is emulates folding proteins in order to increase our understanding of how proteins work. You download a “unit of work”, and then upload the results to FAH.

      It uses all your extra CPU cycles on a VERY low priority (the CPU usage says 100% total, but you don’t notice any slowdown, as any process can pre-empt it).

  • http://onefuriousllama.com/ One Furious Llama

    It works by being awesome!

    Actually, you download an application that runs on your computer when it is idle that calculates a bunch of stuff and uploads the results. There are about 600k CPU’s active on this making a rather large distributed super computer. It is awesome and everybody should to it.

    http://fah-web.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/main.py?qtype=userpage&username=pastafarian

    That’s me!

    • Anonymous

      With 7+ PetaFLOPs it’s actually the second largest supercomputer in the world. The third largest only has about 2.5. Though those are standalone machines.

  • http://onefuriousllama.com/ One Furious Llama

    And now, I will forgo my own team and join the atheist team.

  • Isenberg Sarah

    I’m with Timothy… need more info please.

  • Bailey

    Any other Mac users having problems? Every time I try to open it, I get an error message telling me it crashed. :(

  • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

    Do bear in mind that, unlike the days when the BOINC projects got started, modern computers are very good at reducing power consumption when they’re idle, and running something CPU intensive all the time will increase power usage, heat output, and your electricity bills.

    You may still choose to donate to this, but it’s not a zero cost option.

    • GregFromCos

      That is my experience. If you pay attention you will notice an increase in your electric bill. I’ve done it off and on for several years (mostly during the winters). The mapping the galaxy one is another very worthwhile cause.

      And if you are like me with an upstairs office, more heat in the summer time is not something I will deal with.

  • http://neitshade.wordpress.com/ Davedavis3

    Timothy, you download and install a program which then runs in the background doing the calculations necessary for medical research. Your own use of your computer takes precedence, so it won’t interfere with your work. All you need is a computer and an internet connection (to download & upload the work units.) The longer you have your computer running the better.
    If you are running linux, the easiest way to get started is with Origami: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/FoldingAtHome/origami
    I’ve tested it with Mint & Ubuntu, and it works.

  • NewEnglandBob

    I did this for a few years with a group that rose to the top 20. It gets tiresome.

  • Lei Pinter

    If you prefer to support the underdogs join the James Randi Educational Foundation F@H team (13232). We are currently ranked about 250.

  • Anonymous

    There is a whole list of other distributed computing projects:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_distributed_computing_projects

    Back in the days I ran SETI @ Home

  • http://disqus.com/verify/?token=UFgo9USNxf0vCHPMmjylUAmk3wIoSItD Jim Craft

    test

  • Anonymous

    For those of us with a file server there’s plenty of wasted processing power on an always on system like that. This puts it to good use. For Arch Linux users you can find foldingathome and foldingathome-smp in the AUR.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=743026508 Jeff Simons

    if your system can handle it get the GPU client instead of the CPU one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bdwilson1000 Brian Wilson

    Folding@Home is an awesome cause.  For a typical home computer, the extra electricity costs from your CPU crunching numbers will only be around 50 cents per day.  That’s less than the price of a coke from most vending machines these days…well worth it to contribute to curing deadly diseases.   :)

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, but team Maximum PC for the win.

  • http://twitter.com/jonathanfigdor Jonathan Figdor

    Even better there is World Community Grid, which searches for cures for diseases, and GPUGRID, which utilizes your graphics card to run a form of protein folding.

    http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org
    http://www.gpugrid.org

    I’m on Team Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and invite you all to join me there!

  • westley

    I would join but I’m already on the Katawa Shoujo team…

  • Anonymous

    I tried the World Community Grid before. My computer would get soooooo hot and the fan would run full blast. :

  • Charles Black

    There is also the World Community Grid, which focuses on humanitarian issues such as: clean water, AIDS, dengue fever, clean energy, protein folding, improving rice & more.

  • Anonymous

    I downloaded this years ago because it was promoted at a biophysics conference I attended. For some reason it never managed to connect to the server properly (this was about 5 years ago). Seems to be working fine now. I’m on the teem, which is now ranked 86.

    I wish it would tell me which protein it is changing conformation on the screen. The curiosity is killing me. That is, if it’s actually a protein, because it seems more peptide size.

  • cipher

    I use Grid Republic to manage the grid computing projects I have
    running on BOINC. If they want to make themselves available through
    that, fine. Otherwise, it’s too difficult to remember every time I need
    to reinstall Windows.

    Grid computing is a great idea, but it’s all cobbled together like a
    patchwork quilt, and the software used to manage it is outmoded. There
    needs to be some sort of universal standard, client, etc. I have enough
    on my mind; I shouldn’t have to take notes to remember what plugs into
    which.

    About two years ago, someone at BOINC, Grid Republic or World
    Community Grid (I can’t even remember now) told me they were working on
    developing improvements so that it would all work together more seamlessly. Still haven’t seen it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bdwilson1000 Brian Wilson

    Timothy, in short, you install the program.   It sends you a packet of data.  When you aren’t busy with something else, your computer will run calculations that researchers need, and when finished it will send the data back and request a new work unit.  It’s a way of helping out by donating your computer’s processing power.

  • Curt

    Heh, I haven’t run my F@H programs in a long time. I fired them back up and jumped to this team. Maybe I’ll reload the client onto my PS3 again, those things are great for F@H!

  • http://twitter.com/diracdelta Chris

    Are the results of protein folding available in a public database? How do they share their results with other scientists?

  • westley

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