Folding@Home: give your computer a life saving job

Many Australians are working from home; or WFH, as the kids say. Hank is one of these people. As he worked away the other day, I noticed that his personal computer was running a screen like the one pictured here.

When I asked Hank what was happening on his computer, he explained, he was using his CPU to help process complex calculations for disease research. What I heard, after all the bings and bongs resounded in my head, is that Hank was tasking his computer power to help solve the mysteries of disease (queue fanned hands).

The program Hank was running was folding@home. Visit their website and they explain it all.

Folding@home (FAH for short) ‘is a project focused on disease research.’ The FAH team is based at Washington University in St Louis School of Medicine.

Why folding? The website states: ‘Folding refers to the way human protein folds in the cells that make up your body. We rely on the proteins to keep us healthy and they assemble themselves by folding. But when they misfold, there can be serious consequences to a person’s health‘ (extract:

If you are lucky enough to have a PC, know that it’s about a gazillion times (come on Gertie, is that the real number) stronger than the supercomputer that sent the Apollo 11 team to the moon.

We are all sitting on a lot of power and most of the time, we direct that power to not much, e.g. watching rad shows like Letterkenny or writing blogs. These are delightful past times, but we could be donating our combined computing muscle to help researchers do some heavy lifting.

Screenshot of folding@home at work taken by Gertie P.

Folding@home (FAH or F@h) is a distributed computing project for simulating protein dynamics, including the process of protein folding and the movements of proteins implicated in a variety of diseases. It brings together citizen scientists who volunteer to run simulations of protein dynamics on their personal computers.

Extract from website:

By signing up to FAH, your computer can be tasked to sort through calculations, simulations and muppetationals (sorry Kermit, it’s like a tick) and help science beat disease with a computational stick.

Which diseases? Pick one. You can devote your PC to target something specific, such as cancer or Parkinson’s research. Or you can choose the ‘Any disease’ option, which is currently defaulted to COVID-19 research.

Your computer can process fulltime while you work away, or it can process during idling time. It’s up to you. Just watch how much power you select to devote – ol’ Gertie has a steam engine powered PC so I have to go light or else my computer starts a-chuggin.

FAH encourages people to form teams (perfect relationship building in this time of quarantine).

And if you want to know more or keep up to date with the project – you can read it all on the folding@home website or follow them on social media (links to these on their website).

So, get cracking!

This little cardiganed chicken has joined FAH and I too am now folding to save lives.

Wrong kind of folding Ozzy. Photo taken by Gertie P.

FEATURED IMAGE: Folding@home made by Gertie P with Canva

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