Research through distributed computing: Folding@Home

This is something I have wanted to talk about here for a while now.

Computers have been used for scientific research since their invention, and computer simulations are currently researching most of the world’s incurable diseases. The most successful endeavour so far as been a project called Folding@Home. Folding@Home is extremely unique, in that it allows you to contribute spare processing power for this research.

What they do is chop up molecular simulations into bite-sized chunks for you to process at home. Once the simulation chunk (work unit) is completed, your computer uploads the results back to Stanford University where the research is analyzed. So what exactly are they analyzing? Proteins and how the fold. Trying not to get too technical, proteins change from an unfolded state to a folded state when they are working in your body. Sometimes, proteins misfold. Protein misfolding is the cause of many forms of Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Mad Cow disease, Parkinson’s, among many others. By running simulations designed to understand how and why proteins misfold, medical science is one step closer to understanding, treating, and possibly curing these diseases.

The project has published 63 peer-reviewed papers, and the research is continuing. I have been running the software on my computers for over four years now, and I’d like more people to be aware of it. Because this distributed computer model effectively gives Stanford University a supercomputer hundreds of times faster than the world’s fastest dedicated super computer, the combined efforts of every contributor is what makes the project successful.

You can find out more about the research project and the community built around it here. If you are interested in trying it, visit the download page and give it a go. They also add some competition to the research, as each work unit you submit gets you “points” based on how much processing power was required. I’ve had my own Folding@Home “team” for years, and we’re in the top 1000 worldwide. The team number is 34931 in case you’d like to join. I’ll make a banner to sit on the side of my blog permanently to help promote this, and I invite everyone to spread the word on their own blogs if they like the idea.

Wisdom teeth coming out!

Today’s the big day! Wisdom teeth coming out in less than two hours. Am I nervous? A little. Can’t wait for today to be over, thats for sure!

Here’s a photo I took yesterday at Barrie’s lakeshore. With my brand new (to me) Canon EOS-1n. Yep, thats a film camera. I bought it to experiment with black & white film and infrared photography, but wanted to play with colour to test out the camera. I have Grandpa’s AE-1 sitting on my desk here, and I think much of my inspiration has come from that. I just wanted a film body that I could use my existing lenses with, so I could have more flexibility:

I don’t plan on using this camera nearly as much as digital, but its fun to play with and understand the process of shooting with film. I’ll report on my experiences as they come.

Lake Wahnapitae flight video

When I was up flying last weekend with uncle Mike, I took a few short videos with my 5D mark II. I couldn’t upload the full HD versions of them (it would be over 450MB for 1:30 of video), so here is a Youtube-sized version. I had a blast, and I think this video says more than a hundred photos about how much fun it is.

Playing with panoramas

When I was in Sudbury over the weekend, I decided to take some photos off of Grandma and Grandpa’s balcony to make a panorama. I hadn’t stitched together a panorama image before, and Canon’s PhotoStitch worked great. The sky colour didn’t match up quite right so I fixed that up in Photoshop, and I’m quite happy with the results. The view looks better during the summer, but its still quite nice in the winter.

And if you want to see the full-res version, its here. Be warned though, its a 25MB image.

Alphabet in Pictures: C

Even though I posted a camera yesterday, I didn’t intend to use that for the letter C. When I was photographing the Big Nickel the other day I remembered my coin collection when I was little. I found it still tucked away in my childhood toy-box and thought it would be fun to take a picture of it with my new light box. The photo ended up more sterile than I would have hoped, but going through that box certainly brought back a lot of memories. A lot of these coins came from my dad when he travelled the world, I think some came from memere, and others from friends and relatives. The picture I took has one of every coin, though I have many doubles as well. How many can you identify? 🙂

I did a quick look online as some current currency values out of curiosity to see how much some of these were worth. Many of them were worth less than 1/10th of a cent today.

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