Sunday, March 12, 2006

Donate Your Computer Time and cure Alzheimer's Disease

Since 1997 or so, I have been using my spare computer time to either search for intelligent life in the universe, or to search for a cure for Alzheimer's Disease. SETI @ Home was the first project I joined. They have an attractive screen saver that downloads radio telescope data, then analyzes it exhaustively, taking the better part of a day to examine no more than a minute's worth of data. As with all screen savers, when you're using the computer, SETI@Home waits patiently. It only works when the computer is idle.

After a couple of years of searching for ETI, I changed my mind and switched over to the Folding @ Home project, which does basic research into protein folding, which is a key research problem to understand for several diseases: Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, and "Mad Cow" disease (more properly called BSE and nvCJD). Folding@Home has screen savers that work in an identical way, and also low-level computing programs that run constantly.

Now, I still am eager to find intelligent life in the universe. When I was 13, I sent a hand-written letter to President Ford, asking him what exactly preparations had been made for communicating with aliens when they land. (I received several glossy photographs of Ford "in action" at the White House. Hopefully, they didn't pin my letter up on the bulletin board to chuckle over.) I do believe intelligent life is out there, somewhere, even though it might be centuries before humans find a way to discover this for certain. In any case, we have serious diseases now, and there's no urgency about finding the ETs.

If the protein research seems dull, there are many other group projects that could use your computer
In summary, get one of these programs on your computer(s) as soon as possible. Unless you're an out-of-control maniac, your computer is not in use much more than 50% of the time. By installing a screen saver like this, you could be donating 6-9 months of your computer time each year. Do it!


Blogger Penny said...

My grandmother died of Alzheimer's. She moved completely backwards in time, eventually forgetting her last born for her first and in the end, only recognizing my smile, as it was an inherited family trait. I love your idea and I am so happy that I came across this post!

I was looking for haikus when I found you. Thanks!

alzheimers took her
to everything old and lost
time reversed 'till nil

Sunday, 12 March, 2006  

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