Volunteers Put PCs to Work for Science

'Volunteer Computing' creates quick – and cheap – supercomputers for science
By Jim O'Neill,  Newser User
Posted Dec 25, 2007 2:44 PM CST
Volunteers are helping scientists unravel complex issues using spare home computer processing time.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – While you sleep, your home PC can forge new worlds in science. More researchers across the nation are embracing the concept of volunteer computing—in which they harness the power of otherwise sleeping computers to speed up the mathematical grunt work of their projects, the Chicago Tribune reports. The concept originated about eight years ago, and now hundreds of thousands of PCs are used this way.

Scientists networking individual PCs have access to the processing power of a supercomputer on the cheap, getting work done in days instead of years. An array of volunteers worldwide, from computer whizzes to Star Trek fans, can download software that prompts their computer to work on a small calculation that’s then sent back and plugged into a larger work.