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Dragofer

Folding@Home against COVID-19

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Just yesterday I found out about how projects like Folding@Home and Rosetta@Home are pooling the processing power of ordinary home computers and make it available to researchers to simulate the interactions of COVID-19's structures with potential new therapeutic agents. More specifically, they simulate folding: the shapes which proteins or other particles can take as a result of the many forces between their atoms. This allows predictions of which therapeutic agents are especially effective at binding & hampering COVID-19's components.

As it turns out, GPUs with their 100s-1000s of processing cores are exceptionally well suited to calculating the movements of the thousands of atoms in a protein, compared to CPUs whose cores can usually be counted on one's hands. So I thought a gaming forum would be a pretty good place to spread the word. And I have to say, I find the thought of being able to help bring an end to the pandemic even while sitting at home quite appealing.

So far I've tried out Folding@Home, which seems relatively user-friendly. It's worth playing with the 'Folding Power' setting and checking CPU/GPU usage in task manager or other programs: at medium I was hearing my fans quite loudly, while at light it's simply a process quietly running in the background at 50% CPU usage.

I did have to wait about 20mins before I actually received a work unit to process - seems their platform has recently acquired so many new users that their work queues have been emptied a few times.

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I've been doing this same thing for about 20-25 years with the SETI@home search for extraterrestrial life project. There was only that available at the time but now there's projects for everything to choose from. Now with multiple CPU cores everywhere there are plenty of extra CPU cycles to donate to science than there used to be back in the single core days when it was much more noticeable.

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