Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting
and innovative online destinations. Our web guide is VOA's Art Chimes.
week we feature a website that harnesses the unused power of a million
computers around the world to help solve scientific problems for the
benefit of some of the world's poorest people.
The site uses a
technology called grid computing. The idea is to break big problems
down into small pieces. It works this way: you download a small program
onto your computer. That program uses your Internet connection to fetch
a small packet of data from a central computer. Your computer processes
the data at moments when it has spare capacity, and uploads the results
back, where your results are combined with everyone else's.
are other grid computing projects on the Web, but Stan Litow says
"The power on World Community Grid is used purely for
humanitarian purposes – cancer research, research on dengue fever, rice
DNA - all kinds of public purposes. So that's one thing. But the second
thing is, it's a permanent source that can serve humanitarian needs
year in and year out."
Litow is a vice president of IBM Corporation, which funds the program.
Community Grid has been online for about two years now. It only takes a
few minutes to sign up. And you can choose what project you want to
"You actually decide, and then on
WorldCommunityGrid.org's site, you can actually track how much work
your power has done – individual calculations – and you can see the
progress of the research day by day," Litow says.
runs on most popular personal computers – Windows, Mac, or Linux. And
the system requirements are very modest – you don't need a huge hard
drive or a fast Internet connection. It doesn't interfere with your
other computer activities.
Litow says members in more than 200 countries and territories are participating.
the research projects are also worldwide. The muscular dystrophy
research project comes from France. The climate modeling, from Africa.
Cancer research project came from Brazil. And the rice DNA study, to
try to address the world food crisis, comes from Washington state,
right here in the U.S."
With more than one million computers in
the mix, World Community Grid is the equivalent of a supercomputer.
Scientists working on projects with a humanitarian goal can apply, and
proposals approved by the advisory board get free computing time and
exposure they might not otherwise have. IBM's Stan Litow says one
condition is that the researchers must agree to share their findings.
some good by donating your spare computing resources – you're not using
them anyway – at WorldCommunityGrid.org, or get the link to this and
more than 200 other Websites of the Week from our site, voanews.com.