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Saving the World Through Distributed Computing

distributed-computing.jpgA reader named Andrew Gendreau recently wrote in on the topic of distributed computing, which refers to a method of computer processing in which different parts of a program run simultaneously on two or more computers while they communicate with each other over a network. According to Wikipedia (whose reliability is imperfect but often commendable), distributed computing differs from networking in that the latter refers to two or more computers interacting with each other but not, typically, sharing the processing of a single program.

Gendreau explained that a lot of distributed-computing projects (including his own) have sprung up in recent years, many of them using donated computational power. The potential volunteer pool is limitless — just about anyone in the world who uses a computer. One intriguing program is SETI (run as part of the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing), which is focused on analyzing radio-telescope data to find evidence of intelligent signals from space. Other projects include movements for healthcare in Africa, climate prediction models, and research seeking cures for muscular dystrophy, cancer and AIDS. So if you’ve got a computer and feel like lending part of its brain to one of these projects, jump in.