Need another excuse to play Play Station 3 this week instead of cramming for that 8:30 a.m. final?
Last week, Sony announced that their hit entertainment system will support connection to Folding@Home, a Stanford project which utilizes the concept of distributed computing to understand protein folding, misfolding and diseases related to those actions.
While harnessing a machine’s computing power was previously only available on PCs, the researchers can now pool the resources of the PS3 gaming machine, which reportedly “has a Cell/B.E. processor roughly 10 times faster than a standard mainstream chip inside a personal computer.”
“We’re thrilled to have SCE be part of the Folding@home project,” Vijay Pande, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Folding@Home leader has been quoted as saying. “With PS3 now part of our network, we will be able to address questions previously considered impossible to tackle computationally, with the goal of finding cures to some of the world’s most life-threatening diseases.”
The Folding@Home project helps to analyze the causes of diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s and various cancers.
The process of folding proteins is so complex that simulations can take up to thirty years for a single computer to complete. Folding@Home allows this task to be shared among thousands of computers– and now Play Station 3s– connected via the Internet. When you download the Folding@Home software on your PC you have the option of committing your computer’s processor all time, only when you are idle, etc. It seems the same will be true with the PS3. Once the data is processed, the information is sent back via the Internet to the central computer– in this case, to somewhere at Stanford– where it is compiled to give a complete structural rendering of the protein.