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Your Computer Could Help Unlock the Universe’s Mysteries in Its Free Time

Ebola particles budding from a cell.

In December, IBMs World Community Grid one of the most active BOINC projects launched a new app that will help scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, screen compounds in the hopes of finding drug candidates for the deadly disea

Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

The University of California, Berkeley's Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) program is an online open source software platform that enables volunteers to plug their computers and mobile devices into a worldwide computer network to analyze data for large science projects. BOINC enables PCs to work together to create a virtual supercomputer that feeds off of their unused processing power, and it supports dozens of projects spanning planetary science, cybersecurity, particle physics, and human disease.

For example, last month IBM's World Community Grid launched a new app that will help scientists screen compounds in order to find drug candidates for Ebola. "This could let us do in months what it would otherwise take years and years to do," says Scripps Research Institute researcher Erica Ollmann Saphire.

Meanwhile, cryptologists are using a distributed computer to create rainbow chains, which are tables for cracking passwords.

The Einstein@Home project utilizes data from the LIGO gravitational-wave detectors, the Arecibo radio telescope, and the Fermi gamma-ray satellite. More than 380,000 volunteers have helped to discover more than 30 pulsars, and the project's website says "our long-term goal is to make the first direct detections of gravitational-wave emission from spinning neutron stars."

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