Has the novel coronavirus got you working from home yet? Are you staying in with a bit of extra free time now that school’s been canceled? More importantly, have you washed your hands? COVID-19 was recently declared by the World Health Organization as a pandemic, as COVID-19 case counts continue to rise all over the world. It’s led to lockdowns, panic buyers emptying out supermarkets, and countless event cancellations, including E3 2020.
As we collectively shut ourselves in out of fear of the coronavirus, it’s easy to feel helpless in the face of a disease whose cure is yet to be found. What else can we do about COVID-19 aside from keeping ourselves and those close to us safe, while waiting for a cure? Well, you might not be as helpless as you think: if you’ve got a PC and an internet connection, you already have everything you need to contribute to COVID-19 research, through the Folding@home project.
Folding@home is a distributed computing project from Pande Labs created to aid in the research of the process of protein folding, which is how the proteins in our bodies fold into three-dimensional forms in order to perform their functions. Folding@home currently aids in searching for a cure for Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease as well as several forms of cancer.
The main component of the Folding@home project is its distributed computing technology, which allows users with personal computers to lend their processing units’ idle power to receive data from F@h, process said data, and then send back the processed data to F@h. Instead of researchers and scientists having to rely on the processing power of their own computers, no matter how powerful, F@h lets them borrow the power of the consumer PCs of everyday folk who sign up for F@h.
Folding@home works by creating statistical simulations of the protein folding process, which shows how proteins fold into their final three-dimensional form. Diseases and disorders are brought about when proteins in the body misfold and begin to behave differently from correctly folded proteins. By simulating the process of protein folding, researchers are able to see how both correctly folded and misfolded proteins occur, thus giving them more knowledge as to how a misfold or a disease may be treated and prevented.
The process of protein folding is still a relative unknown in the science world, which is why the power of hundreds of thousands of computers would be a great help in discovering just how it works. Through millions of simulations and countless hours of research, F@h have made small breakthroughs over the years, all of which can be found on their official website and Wikipedia page.
Now that you know all the basics of Folding@home, here’s how you can help.
You can sign up for Folding@home at their official website, and download a 77 mb installer which allows for F@h to make use of your computer’s idle power to create protein folding simulations. You can see the progress of your simulations on the web page that opens upon installation of F@h. You can also watch the protein folding simulation live on the FAHViewer program that comes with the installer.
You can allot your processing power to aiding in COVID-19 research by choosing “Any disease” from the drop-down menu of research to support. Of course, once a resolution comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can allot processing power to aiding in researching the Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as cancer. It’s as simple as installing, choosing the research you want to support, and letting the program do its work as you continue your everyday computer use. From that point, you can leave it all up to the experts to make sense of our simulations.
While I won’t pretend that I understand all the science and computing that goes on in the Folding@home project, there’s nothing to lose in lending a little bit of our PCs’ processing power to aid in a greater cause. COVID-19 is now a pandemic, and even the smallest contribution could lead to a breakthrough in helping find a cure for it. Signing up for F@h is a bit like contributing to bridge construction in Death Stranding, or giving Son Goku some of your energy so he can create a Spirit Bomb strong enough to beat Frieza–it’s sure to be of benefit to everyone, if everyone can pitch in.
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