Thirteen years ago, Stanford researchers created a program that allowed anyone in the world to help solve diseases simply by running their computers.
Called [email protected], the program enables you to perform calculations on your idle computer that are needed to do research into protein folding. This research is important because when proteins mis-fold, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can result.
Bitcoin the digital currency, is about four years old. But the amount of computing power that currently goes into mining Bitcoin, which are created by unscrambling complex strings of encrypted numbers, now stands at 110.6 petaFLOPS.
So if we apply the amount of computing power now being devoted to Bitcoin mining to [email protected], we could now be pumping out 666 peer-reviewed papers about chronic diseases.
Another mass computing program, called [email protected], is designed to detect gravitational-wave emissions from spinning neutron stars. The project seems to have gone into partial hibernation. But as of 2010, it had compiled less than a full petaFLOPS’ worth of computations to detect 2 new pulsars, which indicate the presence of neutron stars and allow astronomers to study the behaviour of matter at nuclear density.
So on our same 110.6 petaFLOPS, we could have found at least 221 new Pulsars.
BI contributor John Aziz has discussed the moral implications of these kinds of calculations, finding them at ambiguous at best.
But it seems fair to state that if you’re considering devoting resources to Bitcoin mining, you may want to keep these numbers in mind.