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I AM A GOLDEN GOD (of Folding@Home)

This is another late post, but I was busy this weekend with schoolwork and the Blip Festival (more on that to come in a future blog entry). I�ll start out by saying it�s kind of a �toot my own horn� post...but you probably already figured that out from the title.

I take good care of my possessions. I have a lot of DVDs, and a bunch of expensive electronic devices (iPod classic, laptop, LCD HDTV, PS3, etc.) as well. So I almost never have a problem with equipment unless it�s a manufacturing defect. As such, my PS3 has never had any issues with freezing or overheating or anything like that � and I�m not even particularly nice to the damn thing, by gamer standards. Let me explain what I mean.

On March 22, 2007, Sony updated the PS3�s software to v1.60, which added a Folding@Home client to the XMB. The way that it works is that you leave your PS3 on, and it does calculations on a �work unit� (one particular protein) � basically, it runs simulations of the different scenarios for the protein folding. Each work unit takes about eight hours to complete, and the data is sent back to Stanford University for analysis. Now, I have pretty much been running my PS3 24/7 to help with this project. That is, whenever I�m not using my PS3 to play a game, listen to my music (streaming through router = awesome), or watch a movie, etc., it�s running F@H. I know there�s a Destructoid team, but I didn�t find out about it until after I had already joined the PlayStation.com Forums Team (#55265), and I didn�t want to switch because your completed work units don�t transfer with you � in other words, I�d start over at zero WU completed if I changed teams. In that respect, I guess I�m a front-runner: the PlayStation.com Forums Team is ranked #46 out of the 89,523 F@H teams.

My friends all ask me why I do it, and I usually make a joke along the lines of, �I�m helping to cure cancer, Alzheimer�s, Parkinson�s, etc.� Of course, that�s not entirely false, as the data being submitted to Stanford by computers running F@H is indeed used for those purposes. Most of my friends are very cautious about their PS3s, and they don�t want to put their console through any more strain than need be. But I guess I just feel kinda cool contributing to a greater cause, and I recently hit a milestone (which is what this post is actually about � took me long enough to get there, didn�t it?).

On Thursday, November 29, I completed my 600th work unit! How do I know this, aside from the fact that the PS3 client reports it? Well, Stanford has set up an extensive statistics tracking database for F@H. There, you can follow your own progress, as well as the progress of your folding team. Now, you can�t do the exact math to figure out just how many hours I�ve been folding. See, they updated the client to v1.2 a month or two ago to include (among other things) support for �Advanced� folding, which they said should only be used for people who folded for at least eight hours a day. Since I was already well over that threshold, I enabled that mode, and when you�re using it, the work units take longer to complete (usually around twelve hours). But just to give you a minimum number...

600 WU � 8 hrs/WU = 4800 hrs
4800 hrs � 24 hrs/day = 200 days

Again, I�ve actually spent more hours folding because I turned on Advanced mode as soon as I updated to v1.2 of the client. Obviously, I have continued to run the client since I hit 600 WU, and I�m now up to 610. I�ve actually completed a total of 624, but the first 14 were with team that I created myself, so they don�t count towards the progress on the PlayStation.com Forums Team. In fact, my PS3 has dedicated enough time to this project to ensure my place among the top folders on my team. If you check out the team statistics page for the PlayStation.com Forums Team, you�ll see that I�m currently ranked at #31 (out of 2,650). My �score� (I have no clue as to how it�s calculated; it seems quite arbitrary) gives me my total Donator Rank, which is 12084 out of 861,667 total donors � so I�m within the top 1.5% of all people who have ever run F@H! For my immense contribution to this project, I got a special certificate signed by the project�s director himself, Professor Vijay Pande:

Note: There is nothing really special about this; the certificates are automatically generated and they all look similar to this one � in fact, you can get a certificate after folding just one WU.

If you�d like to gawk at my stats and have your mind blown, you can check out my Donor Statistics page. I�m sure that many of you guys saw Nick Chester�s story about how the F@H project now holds a Guinness World Record for the world�s most powerful computing network; if you read it, you�d know that that�s only possible with the help of all the PS3s that are folding.

So in closing, I�d like to urge all of you who own PS3s to start running F@H and contributing to this worthy cause (you should all join the Destructoid team, though: #55789). It doesn�t take any effort on your part (unless, of course, you�re paying the electric bill � check out that calculation below), especially since you can set the client to automatically start up after 10, 20, or 30 minutes of your PS3 being idle. Of course, you should first make sure to put your PS3 in a well-ventilated area � mine is just sitting in the open, in front of my TV, on top of my dresser. My console has never overheated or anything, but the air coming out of the vent on the right side of the unit (the top if your PS3 is vertical) can get quite hot. But once you�ve taken care of that, just start up the client and watch that �screensaver� go!

Oh yeah, the electricity calculation:

According to the PS3 FAQ on the F@H page, a PS3 running F@H uses about 200 W of power (that�s 200 joules per second, for you science people). So,

4800 hrs � 60 min/hr � 60 sec/min = 17,280,000 seconds minimum run time for F@H
17,280,000 sec � 200 W (J/sec) = 3,456,000,000 J

And according to Google�s calculator function, 3,456,000,000 J = 960 kilowatt-hours


P.S. As always, bonus points for those of you who get the reference in the title...
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About Samit Sarkarone of us since 7:56 PM on 12.14.2006

Senior Reporter, Polygon at Vox Media

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