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The Science of Folding@home

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the i-prefer-napping@home dept.

Medicine 88

mr_sifter writes "As previously discussed, computers running Folding@home now contribute over 1 petaflop of processing power to research into protein folding, making Folding@home the most successful example yet of a distributed computing app. It's also at the forefront of GPGPU computing, with both Nvidia and ATI keen to push how well their graphics chips perform when folding. So the technology is great, but what about the science? This feature looks at how the Folding project was developed, how it's helping researchers and the thorny question of how long it might be until the software running on your PC or PS3 actually produces real-world results."

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i use folding@home (4, Interesting)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334055)

well its more like folding@office and making better use of the taxpayers money (research facility workstations)

but one thing bugs me

has anyone done the maths as to the electricity used by folding@home so far? the servers i run this on when i go home are always at 100% and by time i return in morning the office is nice and warm, since im not the one paying for the electric i dont really care

im not really sure this project is "green" is what im trying to say

Re:i use folding@home (5, Informative)

Futile Rhetoric (1105323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334077)

Let me Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] that for you.

Re:i use folding@home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28337341)

That only have numbers for the PS3

Re:i use folding@home (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#28338155)

Next time I run into the BOINC developers, I'll have to suggest using location data from users, so you can determine how clean your computing is by integrating power generation data based on location. Better to compute near hydro, nuclear, etc. then compute using coal.

Re:i use folding@home (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28334085)

you missed the chance to be first post !

Re:i use folding@home (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334089)

failure to comply with a buz word does not me it use useless.

you may have an argument on that front with RC5 cracking but not with folding

Re:i use folding@home (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334403)

I agree with you there. How else would we do it without consuming the same amount of electricity? I guess it would depend on one's ideology but personally I'd rather spend the extra dollar contributing to medical research than worry about shooting a couple coal puffs into the air.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

SlashV (1069110) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335235)

How else would we do it without consuming the same amount of electricity?

With a dedicated super computer ? A dedicated super computer is likely to consume a lot less energy per FLOP than your average home PC.
Would be interesting to see how GPGPU performance per watt compared to top500 super computers...

Re:i use folding@home (2, Informative)

Amouth (879122) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335345)

it would be intresting but remember that cray is now selling GPGPU powered mini super computers.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 5 years ago | (#28342191)

How else would we do it without consuming the same amount of electricity?

With a dedicated super computer ? A dedicated super computer is likely to consume a lot less energy per FLOP than your average home PC.

Would be interesting to see how GPGPU performance per watt compared to top500 super computers...

At least distributed computing relies on computers that would have been on anyway.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 5 years ago | (#28344387)

The difference is , that that supercomputer will only be used for the computations , whereas a home pc will be used for other things.
Most people won't run their pc's 24/7 .

So , you would have to calculate how much more energy the pc uses when it's running folding@home , not how much they use in total.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

evan_arrrr! (1406417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28354725)

Assuming Folding@home is always running when your computer is on, then it's a matter of power supply wattage*amount of time Folding@home runs.

If you have a 1000 watt power supply (assuming it doesn't go into a stand-by or power saver mode), you are always drawing 1000 watts from your wall when you are running your computer. Your computer may not use all 1000 watts, but it's still drawing that much into the PSU.

Re:i use folding@home (4, Insightful)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334455)

Heh, if you're truly worried about that, worry about treatments. If any (non-trivial) treatment consisting of specifically folding proteins is found, then there will be exactly one way to produce said drug : genetic manipulation. Only a genetically modified cell will be able to produce those custom proteins.

So it's not "buzzword-compliant" in more than one sence. It burns heaps of co2, it relies on genetic modification, specifically on injecting live humans with substances coming from "mutants" (just like most insulin today, but hey, at least that protein was natural in origin).

And it's also a sign of "skynet" to come, so to speak. Right now humans are telling these computers what to do, but there is no way in hell a human could ever hope to do what these supercomputers do. In 10 lifetimes you wouldn't get 1 nanosecond from the initial chain using paper.

This is basically a computer using a (basic) kind of artificial intelligence to respond to human questions about the real world. I doubt AI of this level would become self-conscious any time soon, but if an intelligence were to directly (or through deception) control a ribosome, like this one does, that would enable it to self-replicate. The question it would need to answer is one that is "but" an exercise in protein folding : "how do I fold a protein so it runs my thinking algorithm ?", even if it's much harder than the current questions being asked.

And if said AI wanted to create new weapons against humans, here's a quote from the article :

Pande explains that this is "as drug design is very hard, itâ(TM)s very easy to do more harm than good, and thatâ(TM)s one thing that we never want to see".

It's perhaps worth mentioning that the DNA code that defines AIDS, for example, is only a couple of thousand basepairs long, well within reach of this program.

Like most research worth pursuing, it's very, very not-buzzword-compliant, and conceivably unbelievably dangerous. Even something "undeniably good" like fusion research produces (tiny amounts of) long-lived high-radioactive waste due to a process called activation.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

MikeURL (890801) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335515)

So SkyNet could own us without ever firing a shot. Just produce a very complex protein with a timed (or keyed) payload. Very tricky and not so terribly far-fetched.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

Bowling Moses (591924) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337765)

"If any (non-trivial) treatment consisting of specifically folding proteins is found, then there will be exactly one way to produce said drug : genetic manipulation. Only a genetically modified cell will be able to produce those custom proteins."

This is not necessarily the case. We can predict with reasonable accuracy (about 80%) what sort of secondary structure (alpha helix, beta sheet, or coil, basically) a protein will have based solely on the protein sequence. For example, if you were to put the protein sequence lkgtlgqdvidirtlgskgvftfdpgftst, into Jpred [dundee.ac.uk] you get this prediction:
LKGTLGQDV IDIRT LGSKGV FTF DPGFTST
------------------EEEEE-------------EEE
Where E is the code for beta sheet, and the dash is coil. Jpred is smart enough to also search through the Protein Data Bank [rcsb.org] and see if that sequence belongs to a protein that has already had it's structure solved, which is the case here. I told Jpred to go on with the prediction anyway, and by comparison to the known protein structure iIt doesn't do horribly bad, correctly predicting that most of this sequence is coil, getting close with the first bit of sheet secondary structure, and misinterpreting the second sheet bit when it should be another type of structure (a turn--several different ones are defined but make up only small amounts of structure, being largely transitions between the other secondary structure types). However as the example sort of hints at, protein structure can be squishy. If your protein is an enzyme, then it must bind substrate, catalyze a reaction, and release product. There will be some structural change that accompanies this, meaning that small molecules can have an impact on protein structure. Sometimes but not often this can involve radical change. I knew a guy a few years ago who designed a protein, such that he could control the secondary structure of a short stretch by the addition of a small molecule. If present, part A was helix, part B was coil. If absent, part A was coil, part B was helix. I'm running out of time, but there are also examples in nature of a protein in the course of it's biological function that has parts swap between sheet and helix structure. Lastly, we come to diseases caused by misfolding proteins. The mutations are often small ones, that disrupt proper folding of structural proteins. It may be possible to treat disorders at least to some extent by introducing a small molecule that will favor the properly folded state as opposed to the disease-causing improperly folded protein state (I'm thinking of Lou Gehrig's disease aka amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS). Such a small molecule probably can't do anything about existing misfolded protein stuck in a plaque in the cell, but the small molecule might interact with protein as it is being made or before it joins the plaque and prevent an increase in the plaque size. It is at least conceivable that a conventional drug treatment could affect this part of ALS and halt or slow the progression of the disease.

Re:i use folding@home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28342357)

Shhh. You're confusing the fearmongering nutbars with actual science.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28338833)

This is basically a computer using a (basic) kind of artificial intelligence to respond to human questions about the real world

Only if you're willing to horribly stretch the definition of AI.

if an intelligence were to directly (or through deception) control a ribosome, like this one does, that would enable it to self-replicate. The question it would need to answer is one that is "but" an exercise in protein folding : "how do I fold a protein so it runs my thinking algorithm ?", even if it's much harder than the current questions being asked.

This isn't designing proteins, it's finding the 3D structures of proteins we know. And designing a protein capable of catalyzing such a complex chain of events is orders of magnitude more complex than what it's doing right now.

Like most research worth pursuing, it's very, very not-buzzword-compliant, and conceivably unbelievably dangerous.

For very small values of 'conceivable'.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#28340821)

This isn't designing proteins, it's finding the 3D structures of proteins we know. And designing a protein capable of catalyzing such a complex chain of events is orders of magnitude more complex than what it's doing right now.

Perhaps you should read the article. They're designing proteins.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28350779)

Perhaps you should read the article. They're designing proteins

Yeah, well, you know what? Maybe I should.
(but I won't)

Re:i use folding@home (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 5 years ago | (#28342213)

Pande explains that this is "as drug design is very hard, itâ(TM)s very easy to do more harm than good, and thatâ(TM)s one thing that we never want to see".

Eww, smart quotes! Just use the "'" symbol (conveniently quoted for you).

Re:i use folding@home (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334195)

The (somewhat trickier) question, is not "How much energy does folding@home use?"; but "How does folding@home compare to other methods of doing the same calculations?".

As long as we accept that doing the folding is a worthwhile use of resources(which, unless we are busy communing with the moon goddess or wearing uncured leather and killing bears with our teeth, is probably agreeable to most) the question is a matter of how to do it most efficiently; balanced by the fact that sometimes doing it inefficiently is the only way to do it.

Unfortunately, I suspect that folding@home might fall into that category. If everybody participating were able to total up the costs they incur by doing so, and just donate that to the project, you could probably get better results by buying hardware well matched to the task. Unfortunately, because of transaction costs and psychological factors, and people who don't (directly) pay for electricity, it is much easier to get "in kind" donations of CPU time, even if they are less efficient. It's rather like bittorrent that way. Looking at the costs across the network, it'd almost certainly be cheaper to have Akamai or Amazon host the stuff, and have downloaders pay $.50 or so, rather than keeping their computers on for hours in order to pay in their (limited) upstream bandwidth. However, donations in upstream bandwidth are quite easy to collect, while handling money introduces complexity.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334363)

This is all fine and well but what about when some leave their PC on anyway? Savings would assume that people aren't using their PC for some other function while this is happening.

And it's odd that you bring up bittorrent... So if I have 3 days worth of torrents lined up and my PC is just sitting their at 2-3% CPU usage leeching and seeding, how much more is it really costing me to have it folding at the same time? And lets not even consider the number of users who leave their machines idling away for 20 hours a day because they're too lazy to do a shutdown. If the machine is on it may as well serve some useful purpose even if it's not as efficient as a supercomputer (dollar for dollar, that is).

I agree that there are going to be cases where powering down and putting a few bucks towards the project is better all around but most people just don't analyze their computer usage on that level. In that case F@H is a great alternative to simple waste.

Re:i use folding@home (4, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335707)

According to my UPS's monitoring software, by machine idles (screen off with torrents running) at 180W and hits 210W with folding@home (GPU edition on my 8800GTS) running, 30W extra. Assuming it does that 24 hours a day (it's always on anyway as it also runs as my FTP/web server and for remote access), that comes to 21.6KW-hr per month, which at local electrical rate (9.6 cents/KW-hr) comes to $2.07 per month.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336763)

Thanks for the information. That actually puts some numbers to the question. Now, I just wonder how far 2.07 USD would go in renting some super computer time or other areas of expendature.

Re:i use folding@home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28336497)

It's the biggest scam ever perpetrated. "Use the computer's idle time" they say. What they don't tell you is that a computer uses more electricity when it's at 100% load than when it is idling at 5%. Sheep-sourcing at it's best.

-XcepticZP

Re:i use folding@home (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336803)

What they don't tell you is that a computer uses more electricity when it's at 100% load than when it is idling at 5%.

I'd like to think that's apparent to most users here. Another user actually put some numbers to it.

Re:i use folding@home (3, Informative)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334445)

If everybody participating were able to total up the costs they incur by doing so, and just donate that to the project, you could probably get better results by buying hardware well matched to the task.

Maybe or maybe not. One would have to include in the calculation the cost of building additional computers. One of the ways in which distributed computing is "green" is that it uses computers which have already been built, but would otherwise be idle. In this sense it is re-using resources that have already been committed, rather than requiring totally new equipment to be built, which consumes new resources.

In other words, the newly-built computers would have to be sufficiently more efficient that they fully offset their own production costs, and then some.

As long as we accept that doing the folding is a worthwhile use of resources ... the question is a matter of how to do it most efficiently

Indeed. For many computational projects one has to take into the account the likely scaling of computer power and algorithmic power. For instance in principle for a given problem with a given deadline, it can sometimes be cheaper to wait until new computers are on the market, if they will be sufficiently faster (at a given cost) than the older ones. (That is, you may be able to "waste time" and still make your deadline.) Alternately, it may be a total waste of modern computer resources to inefficiently search a given parameter space if we have reason to believe that drastically better algorithms will become available in a few years.

As it turns out, problems like protein folding are very difficult, and we have no reason to believe that dramatically better techniques are on the horizon. So if (as you say) we care about the problem at all, then it would seem that we can justify the energy spent doing those calculations right now on modern general-purpose machines.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334747)

So, I should donate those old 486DX2 and SlotA Celeron 300 systems to the Beowulf Cluster of Folding? (Similar in effectiveness to the 'Pendulous Apendage of Pendulousnous') [slashdot.org]

Re:i use folding@home (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337191)

Or do what I did during school: use those old machines as webservers or fileservers, and also run BOINC.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334639)

for the bittorrent example, you could fix that with use of www.greedytorrent.com

too many people who charge for torrent sites are anyways seeding at MBps speeds, what are your 8-10kBps going to do??

Re:i use folding@home (4, Informative)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335383)

Folding@Home, and torrents are more like a micropayment system that actually works.

Sure it costs you electricity and bandwidth, but in such small amounts (typically) and over time. Plus there are no additional transaction fees or middle men taking a cut. It's tax free, and there are no forms to fill out or any other bureaucracy.

Torrents are just a distributed micropayment system.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

Eil (82413) | more than 5 years ago | (#28344271)

The (somewhat trickier) question, is not "How much energy does folding@home use?"; but "How does folding@home compare to other methods of doing the same calculations?".

Setting aside for the moment the issue of energy use, the whole point to folding@home is that it utilizes the otherwise idle processor cycles, meaning the scientists don't have to deploy their own equipment. As a nice bonus, they get a distributed processing cluster that by far exceeds anything they could ever get a grant for. Even if the distributed method were inefficient (which it isn't), it would still be mind-numbingly worth it for that reason alone.

Unfortunately, I suspect that folding@home might fall into that category. If everybody participating were able to total up the costs they incur by doing so, and just donate that to the project, you could probably get better results by buying hardware well matched to the task

I don't think so, and I'll explain why. I have a file server at home that consists primarily of a few disk drives and an Athlon 750MHz processor that was almost completely dormant. Idle, it draws 98 watts of power. (Whew. Yeah, that's why I'm replacing it soon.) With the CPU pegged at 100%, it draws 109 watts. So the effective power difference between "no folding" and "nearly 750MHz of folding" is 11 watts. No off-the-shelf computer that I'm aware of (yet) gets that kind of efficiency. I believe that with today's faster and more efficient computers, the delta is would be even smaller for much greater computer power (think multiple cores).

Now, if we calculate the cost of me running folding@home versus not, 11 watts at my local electric rate ($0.07 per kWh) for a years worth of folding comes out to $6.75. If I simply donated $6.25 to a folding project, they would likely spend nearly all of it just on administrative costs of processing the donation, let alone putting it towards their own private supercomputer.

Everytime folding@home comes up on Slashdot, we get all these comments talking about how they like the idea, but don't want to pay for the extra electricity it uses. But they never go on to figure out how much they would actually pay, for fear that it would disprove their rationalization. The fact is that electricity is cheap and any extra cost that you would incur by running folding@home can be easily offset many times over just by lowering the standby timeout on your monitor or some other trivial adjustment.

Re:i use folding@home (2, Interesting)

jowilkin (1453165) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334229)

I think it's debatable if using research facility workstations for FAH is a good use of taxpayer money. What about powering them down instead?

I have been wondering about power consumption of these distributed computing projects for a while. How do you justify the sheer amount of energy used to run these things?

SETI is a much more questionable use of power IMO, but Folding@home has not really shown to be enormously useful considering the amount of power it uses.

Why not put all the money used powering computers involved in FAH into innovative research grants instead? Granted this is logistically much harder than convincing people to install a program on their computer, but it would be much more effective in furthuring cancer research.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334309)

Why not put all the money used powering computers involved in FAH into innovative research grants instead? Granted this is logistically much harder than convincing people to install a program on their computer, but it would be much more effective in furthuring cancer research.

Well, when you have thousands of volunteers running it on their desktop PCs and servers either at home or at work, it becomes pretty difficult to pool the money saved from not having Folding@Home into research grants.

Re:i use folding@home (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28334289)

If you leave the server on anyways, the power draw at 0% usage versus 100% usage is minimal.

eg. I have an old Dual processor Dell server that uses 170 watts idle, and 180 watts running at 100%

the largest difference I got was on my overclocked AMD FX-55 which had a difference of 30 watts. and a laptop that had a difference in 30 watts.

I used the Kill-A-Watt device purchased from thinkgeek.com.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337685)

Also, you can run in a power-saving CPU mode.

I use Rosetta @ home and foldit (3, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334631)

Rosetta at home [bakerlab.org] is another and arguably much more efficient folding project. It actually predicts protein structures at high resolution, allows docking, and design of proteins. put your cycles there. Also if you like this kind of thing then try out foldit [fold.it] . it a multiplayer game in which you race others either collaboratively or in cometition to fold proteins. The games are chosen so the answers help investigators studying the protein folding process! The idea is to separate what humans do best--large scale long range geometry-- with what computers do best--fine tuning interactions.

Re:I use Rosetta @ home and foldit (4, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334681)

The main difference between folding at home and roestta@ home is that folding at home studies molecular dynamics-- the science of how proteins vibrate and move while rosetta actually goes after protein structure itself directly. As a result Rosetta can fold proteins with millions of times less computation.

Re:i use folding@home (2, Interesting)

xrobertcmx (802547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334821)

One of the things I did to resolve this at my home was to build a reasonably powerful 100W server. I use this machine to serve video to my PS3, as a Samba file server, and a few other things, but since I already wanted it on 24/7 I also run the smp package for folding at home on it. Total power used is 118W per the killowatt.

Re:i use folding@home (2, Interesting)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336401)

Strange as I built my desktop two years ago with energy efficiency as the primary goal. I'm currently running a 64bit multi-lib version of Gentoo on a C2D e6300 (1.8GHz) with 8GB of memory and F@H using the 64bit SMP version set to Large (>10M) work units and my system is using a grand total of 120 watts average (that includes my LCD monitor and Linksys WiFi router) according to my APC battery backup. Hell I rarely turn my system off so it makes sense to run F@H and use the CPU while my system isn't being used for much else.

Based on my normal usage, I could actually get by with a 700Mhz Celeron and Win95 if it weren't for flash and Folding.

Re:i use folding@home (1)

xrobertcmx (802547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347465)

The current setup for this machine is an AMD 4850e w/4gig of DDR2 800 running 64bit OpenSuSE 11.1. The motherboard in use is a hand me down from my desktop and doesn't have onboard graphics, this doesn't help with the power as I ended up putting in an old ATI X1600Pro. I plan to replace the motherboard or maybe the graphics card and add a UPS to the office when money becomes available. I also have 1x1TB, 2x500GB, and 1x300GB hard drives in there. So at 113W under full load I'm happy. Right now I only have 1 UPS in the house to handle the router, voip adapter, and telephone in case of power failure, but thankfully we haven't had a single outage in the two years since we bought the house. I also run FAH on my desktop using the GPU client on a HD3870, and I have it here at the office on three machines, two of which have to stay on 24/7 anyways.

Re:i use folding@home (-1, Flamebait)

paulzeye (736282) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336235)

STOP IT! Unless the grant your research facility uses specifies that resources should be used for this kind of research. It is not for you to decide how to use taxpayer money- the responsible thing to would be to shut these machines down at night.

Re:i use folding@home (3, Insightful)

ID000001 (753578) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336947)

Keep a few things in mind:

1) A good potion of the computing power for folding@home, are from PS3, which, according to study, are one of the most efficient CPU design along the top500.

2) Computer or Console that are running Folding@home are usually power on anyway. While increasing it's CPU utilization, the actual increased electricity use are likely lower then, say, a dedicated server just for folding.

3) It is very spread out, instead of everything running in a data center, everyone runs one at their home. Think of this as some kinda "heatsink" so less power are used to keep this system cool down, compare to, say, concentrated computing power in the same location.

4) It operate on many electricity grids. When it is ran across the global, it put less strain on forcing certain power plant to runs at higher capacity. I don't know if this make it more or less power efficient, but it would put less strain on individual power grid.

5) It give everyone a chance to contribute. They have a common enemies that killed many of their relative. They fight together, by themselve or in team. They keep people motivated on something. That count for something, right?

Re:i use folding@home (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337397)

If you're worried about that, try a real mindfuck with http://www.climateprediction.net/ [climateprediction.net] .

Not a petaflop! (3, Informative)

tomknight (190939) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334081)

It's petaflops, not petaflop. That s means something.

Re:Not a petaflop! (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334181)

It's petaflops, not petaflop. That s means something.

You mean like 1 kilometers?

Re:Not a petaflop! (2, Informative)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334319)

No, like 1*10^15 "Floating Point Operating Per Second"

Re:Not a petaflop! (2, Informative)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334343)

*Operating==Operations
FLoating point Operations Per Second

Re:Not a petaflop! (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28334345)

Like 1 kilometer/s.

Re:Not a petaflop! (2, Informative)

Useful Wheat (1488675) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334375)

Flops is short for FLoating point Operations Per Second. There is a point to the s.

Re:Not a petaflop! (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335573)

No, since 'flop' means "floating point operation per"

The 's' means "second"

IOW, you can have one petaflops.

Re:Not a petaflop! (4, Informative)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334185)

Actually it's petaFLOPS as it's an abbreviation.

Re:Not a petaflop! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28334255)

Actually, it's going plaid [youtube.com] speed.

Re:Not a petaflop! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335113)

Actually the modern trend is to twist that heritage and write something like 1 Pflop/s. This has the advantage that you can now talk about flop counts if you want (e.g. 1 Pflop), instead of being limited to flop rates, and it just plain fits better with the rest of the metric system. "flop" is backronymed to mean FLoating-point OPeration.

Re:Not a petaflop! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28334233)

Floating point operations per second; if anyone was wondering (honestly how long will you guys fight about that before actually saying the name?)

Re:Not a petaflop! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28334659)

PETA has FLOPPED as a credible organization no matter how one looks at it.

Re:Not a petaflop! (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337411)

That s means something.

FLoating Point Operations Per Something?

5 petaflops, not 1 (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28334109)

"However, even Roadrunner looks decidedly weedy compared with the power of Stanfordâ(TM)s Folding@home project. Its computational power has now surpassed the five petaflops mark."

Re:5 petaflops, not 1 (2, Interesting)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334829)

The thing is that Roadrunner can run programs that are not ridiculously parallel. Folding is split into discrete units that are computed and sent back up to months later. The units have absolutely no bearing on anything else running, and there is no need for intercommunication. If you had to perform some task that could not reasonably fit within the free resources of an idle computer, you're sunk. Sure, it has a huge amount of capacity, but you cannot compare it to something like the Roadrunner because it cannot, and was never intended to, perform the same sorts of tasks.

Intriguing (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28334117)

I have yet to hear about this place called Hope. I have been searching for the perfect place to nap for years, and the fact that there is a whole department named "i-prefer-napping@hope," brings me, well, HOPE that my life-long quest may finally have reached an end.

Just one problem: Where is this wonderful nappy place called "Hope"? Searching Google Maps for "Hope," I discovered Hope, Arkansas, which greatly surprised me, considering the number of people who told me that there is nothing to see in that boring, empty state. Now I suspect they were hiding something. I had to look deeper...

I could tell from the satellite photo that Hope, AK, seemed to be a remote location in a rural part of the state. Things are starting to come together. What better place for a secret napping facility? I created a new search for "Hope, AK," and found that the original search of Google Maps pointed to the wrong location. Hope is actually a small town, but more importantly, HOPE IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF BILL CLINTON! This reeks of conspiracy! Is Bill Clinton somehow involved in this secret napping facility? Is this the secret to his youthful vigor and ungainly sex drive? But this brings in the best question of all: how are SlashDot and CmdrTaco involved in this conspiracy?

I have a new quest, gentlemen. Godspeed to me, and farewell.

BOINC? (1)

jedirock (1453977) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334135)

Where's BOINC? BOINC may not have as many users or processing power, but it is more diversified than Folding@home.

Re:BOINC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28334449)

their interface, iirc, sucks though

Re:BOINC? (2, Interesting)

jedirock (1453977) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334533)

It's more general purpose, and you can make your own UIs for it. I'm in the middle of doing one myself.

Re:BOINC? (1)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334749)

but it works on Linux, Macintosh, Windows, BSD, and Unix. Last I looked foldong@home only worked on Windows and PS3.

Re:BOINC? (1)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335335)

Last I looked foldong@home only worked on Windows and PS3.

Of course it works also on Linux and Mac.

Re:BOINC? (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335837)

Folding@home works fine on Linux and Mac and, as far as i know, it's always been that way. Where did you get the idea that it didn't support those platforms?

Re:BOINC? (1)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336085)

faulty memory (and the fact that it is not using BOINC)

Re:BOINC? (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337453)

Not all BOINC projects are available on all platforms. While the BOINC framework itself is open source, some applications are closed.

JavaScript implementation. (1)

YouDoNotWantToKnow (1516235) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334421)

I just got an epiphany. A scantily clad moon godess came down to me on a bolt of lightning and said: A) There are people who need their cpu cycle expensive tasks computed, they are willing to pay for it. B) Then, there are people who publish content on the web and want to get money for it. C) And then, there are millions of people who want to read the B's content without paying for it. Their PC's sit idle when they finish downloading and displaying the content while people read it. Then she left. I still don't get it.

Re:JavaScript implementation. (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334519)

I have been thinking about it since I have read that comment [hackaday.com] on hackaday

vs World Community Grid (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28334509)

Anyone know how this compares to the World Community Grid [worldcommunitygrid.org] ?

Fully Operational (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334547)

If the @home-type distributed computing systems ran on energy marked and priced as 'green', nature would not take damage from using old circuitry. The lest efficient hardware could be scrapped when energy production is insufficient, and so we can the total computational power of this planet constantly maximized. I am sure Sky Net will see that symbiosis with mankind is the optimal arrangement.

It's actually useful for a PS3 (4, Interesting)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334791)

Sometimes I need to leave my PS3 on for a while. (Recharging the controllers, big download, whatever.) I have the "automatically turn off after one hour of inactivity" setting checked, so sometimes the process wouldn't finish before it shut down.

So, I fire up Folding@Home (technically called "Life With Playstation" [wikipedia.org] now) before I go to bed. Takes about six hours, plus or minus. Enough time for downloads or recharging, does something useful while the PS3's on, shuts off once the work unit's done, everybody's happy.

I prefer Seti@Home (2, Funny)

Drone69 (1517261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334905)

That way once we find the little ETs they can fold our laundry for us. Oh...hang on a minute. THAT Folding@home!

BOINC sucks, btw.

I preffer aqua (Adiabatic QUantum Algorithms) (2, Interesting)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | more than 5 years ago | (#28334921)

I donate my idle processing power to the aqua@home project ( http://aqua.dwavesys.com/ [dwavesys.com] ). They (d-wave) are building quantum computers and that's a field I'm more familiar with than medicine. Guess both are more sensible than looking for E.T. though. (Just my personal opinion.)

Not particularly efficient... (1)

Digi-John (692918) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335021)

Compare the FAH systems to BlueGene/P. BlueGene is made up of System-on-Chip PowerPC computers, stuck on DIMM-like cards and then put into arrays, which go into racks, etc. Hugely power efficient, in part because each system doesn't maintain a disk and other crap.

On the other hand, your home computer is inefficient in terms of both heat, power, and space, because it has to run all the other hardware stuff you don't have in a proper supercomputer.

Re:Not particularly efficient... (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337393)

...inefficient in terms of both heat...

What if we run BOINC projects in the winter, when the heat would be otherwise generated by a furnace?

This strategy worked well for me when I came home from college; my room was across the house from the furnace, so in the winter my room would be very cold (around 45F, if it was 0F outside). I'd turn on my main computer and play Counterstrike for a couple hours with the video card overclocked, and I'd turn on my server, running BOINC. It would put the room up to a much more comfortable temperature (~60F), and I could sleep without shivering! :)

What company patents and profits? (0, Troll)

proton (56759) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335185)

The question I see before me is,

Which for-profit company will patent and profit from the work? And in the process stifle innovation in protein folding for the next 20+ years.

What a Revelation! (4, Funny)

Prototerm (762512) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335353)

And here I thought that folding@home had something to do with laundry. Who knew?

Re:What a Revelation! (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 5 years ago | (#28342097)

Well, it does, if your friends call you Buffalo Bill.

One petaflop? Can I have it? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335553)

Just one question: How exactly did you get to having one petaflop of spare CPU power? Are you working at Google?
I meant you don't exactly put some computers together in your basement, to get to that power.

Oh, and did you already play trough Crysis Warhead on Vista, with a ray-tracing mod, running in a virtual machine implemented as an Emacs script, running on another JavaScript based VM in the browser... or are you still planning to do it?

Re:One petaflop? Can I have it? (1)

TuaAmin13 (1359435) | more than 5 years ago | (#28336363)

You must be new here.

Obviously you have a Beowulf cluster.

Paranoid much? (2, Interesting)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28337287)

My paranoid mind wonders how we really know these CPU cycles are working for good and not evil? It could be decrypting keys for all I know, or working out some sort of weapon system. We just have their assurances that a "work unit" really is going toward something worthwhile, and not to the CIA or NSA.

Re:Paranoid much? (1)

the_one(2) (1117139) | more than 5 years ago | (#28340267)

I assume somebody has disassembled the binaries and looked at them (of course then we would have to trust the disassemblers=)

Overtaken by ps3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28341431)

I had 15 servers(2 cpu, dual core) running for a couple of months and then when the PS3 people joined, I was overtaken by them in a couple of weeks. So I just gave up.

Re:Overtaken by ps3 (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 5 years ago | (#28343545)

Huh? My PS3 makes around 900 points/day on F@H. My 1.87GHz dual core Ubuntu laptop gets about 1700-1800 points/day with SMP folding... on the A2 core, at least.

SMP folding on a dual-core machine should easily outscore the PS3. Were you using uni-processor clients? I've also heard that Windows SMP machine can't run the A2 core WUs, which run much faster than A1s.

The folding@home guys need to watch more House MD (1)

BoxedFlame (231097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346711)

In House MD when they suggest a diagnosis that means sure death for the patient that diagnosis is ignored because if it has no practical use anyway, no matter if it is true or not. The same logic should be applied to the folding@home project. If these guys are correct and we need to brute force this problem the way they're doing it, we're basically screwed because even with moores law running for decades more we'll still not be able to computationally solve novel proteins in any meaningful time. In essence, if they are correct we should shut down folding@home directly and focus all our efforts on high throughput electron/xray/nmr/syncrotron crystallographic methods because they have at least a theoretical chance of being practically useful. One wonders why people like this manage to secure funding for such a large scale death march.

Folding @ Home (1)

Shadow-Copy (1194657) | more than 5 years ago | (#28358557)

Well it is very simple, it plugs into a patients mind and resolves the small headache.
just kidding

The application, Folding@home, Explains what the application does on its main site http://folding.stanford.edu/ [stanford.edu] . You donate computing power and bandwidth to a network. Basically functioning as a WAN, your system takes on a proxy role when engaging into the server. You download a application, which is basically a time table of usage, it will work calculations, and other roles for that subnetwork. Then you might assume your system is just doing one role, because of how you can connect other systems to utilize onto one folding. When really you are just plugging in more bandwidth and computing power for that time table. Folding@Home will use a small fraction of your systems computing power. Taking about as much resources as a screen saver runs on your system. Which it only seems more from that when the time table you download from folding@home is doing something else, but they just only will use so much system resources to do processes.

Your system doesn't become a life line, by any means. The Folding@Home project is basically helping a super computer calculate protein calculations or procedures in a far more productive pace. Allowing the super computer to finish calculations, that would take months, within days. By donated processing power from your system.

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