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Arman {ProgrammerByDay}
Arman {ProgrammerByDay}

Posted on • Originally published at programmerbyday.wordpress.com

 

Be a citizen scientist and help end Covid-19 pandemic faster

With everything going on because of Covid-19 pandemic, there has been damages to various aspects of the world. From recession in countries' economies to people struggling with jobs and even worse people losing their loved ones. On the other hand, there has been a tremendous amount of great work from health-workers and doctors which we all appreciate every day.

It seems like the key to get out of this pandemic is to wait until Covid-19 vaccine is created. But why wait when we can help expedite it? ... How?.. you ask ... well, let me explain:

New form of donation, donate technology

We all are familiar with common forms of donations in the time of a crisis. Some donate money, some volunteer and donate their time, some donate (like doctors, nurses, engineers, etc.) their expertise and knowledge. All forms is appreciated and every bit helps.

In case of Coronavirus pandemic, there are many studies being done to understand the virus better, how it works and what its behaviours are and how it reacts to a certain chemical compound. Almost every university and lab has or had a study about Covid-19. Which is super-amazing! 🙂 
Most studies need gazillions of calculations or simulations to help them study the virus and its behaviours better. The problem is, it takes time and there isn't a super-computer big enough to finish all these calculations in a proper time period.

But what if people voluntarily donate computing devices they have (PCs, Laptop, Mobiles, Gaming Consoles, Rigs, etc.), scientists can collect the power of them and use it? Well .. yes and That is what citizen scientist is.

A citizen scientist is someone who is willing to donate their excess computing resource to participate in a research

This way, scientists can combine and link the machines citizen scientists donate and run their calculations at scale.

But .. is it helpful?

The power in our hand

Let's take a typical smart-phone as an example .. iPhone 6. It uses A8 chip which is a dual-core 1.4Ghz cpu. Now let's compare it with the computing power used for two of the human achievements throughout the history:

  • In 1997, IBM deep blue managed to beat Kasparov the big-master of chess. An iPhone 6 is 1000 times faster and more powerful than that.
  • In 1969, Apollo 11 used a specific computer to help it navigate. An iPhone 6 is 32000 times faster and more powerful than Apollo guidance computer (AGC) which worked at 0.043MHz and 64Kbyte of memory. and it landed us on moon!

How to start

There are many distributed computing projects running across the world. Generally each project needs you to install an application on your PC, laptop, gaming device or phone. Then it can be configured on how much power it is allowed to use and when is the time for it to run. Folding@HomeDreamlabBOINCIBM OpenPandemicCharity EnginePI Cloud and MyShake are just some of the different projects I found with a simple google search.

Folding@Home (FAH) is a distributed computing project started in 2000. It studies folding and the movements of proteins in human bodies. It uses your unused computing power and make it to use to study when proteins misfold. It has helped with the study of cancers, infectious diseases and neurological diseases. On March 2020, the contribution from people got them to 1.5 exaFLOPS and even made them one of the first exa-scale super-computers! It is now focusing on Covid-19 moonshot project.

On the other hand, Dreamlab is an app that uses the power of your phone while you are sleeping. It is available for iOS as well as Android. It is focusing on different cancer studies as well as a Covid-19 study. You can choose which study you would like to participate in. You can also choose how much data you allow the app to use. With phones being almost as powerful as computers these days, a virtual super-computer like that can get a great amount of computing power while phones are being charged at nights.

What do you think? Have you participated in any of these projects before?

PS: I am NOT affiliated with any of the projects above, I wrote this simply because I find this idea interesting and worth talking about.

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