April 10, 2007 Folding@Home is a distributed computing project where people donate spare clock-cycles from the CPU or GPU in their Internet-connected PC's, the result of which is one of the largest supercomputers in the world. The Folding@Home client for the Playstation 3, released as part of a recent system update for the console, quickly raced to the top of the statistics. Shortly after, just as the network of over 20,000 consoles was about to hit the team's goal of one petaflop, the Folding@Home team reevaluated the performance of the console - dropping it to half the original figure. In spite of this, the Playstation 3 remains the greatest contributor to Folding@Home, and currently provides over half of the processing power available to the project.
So what exactly does Folding@Home do?
The goal of the Folding@Home project is to understand protein folding, misfolding and the associated diseases.
Proteins assemble themselves before carrying out their biological functions - this process is called folding. Proteins can also fold incorrectly, and this is the cause of many diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Cystic Fibrosis and many cancers.
By simulating the folding process, researchers can see how molecules affect the folding of specific proteins, and this research could lead to drugs that cure all of the above mentioned diseases and many more.
So far, nearly fifty research papers have been published using data processed by the Folding@Home project.
Before you jump in...
If you're not sure whether your power comes from renewable sources, ring your power company and find out - it generally costs a very small amount to switch to renewable sources, and this way you're not punishing the environment to try and cure cancer.
Figure out how much you pay per KiloWatt hour (KWh) to avoid any nasty surprises on your bill. Carl Nelson tells us that we can expect a PS3 that folds 24/7 to consume 138 KWh per month.
Remember to turn your TV off for any folding that takes place when you're not around!