Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Folding at (my) Home

Running Folding at Home or simply 'folding' as it's known is something that I dipped my toe into a few years ago but at the mid point of last year (2011) I jumped back in.  At its simplest it is just running yet another application on a PC, at very extreme it could really change the future for human kind.

Do I feel like I am changing the future for humans by running this application?  No, not really... well yeah kinda.  Lets look into this further

Its fair to say some people do not understand why I would have an interest in folding.  Some would say I am just wasting electricity, others might say I have been suckered into doing it.  There are also likely those that when receiving a rebuttal to the first statement will follow up with the second.  I mean, if someone wants to know what could be worth the extra carbon output or extra cost the electricity, the natural response is going to require a powerful answer in these times of eco craziness combined with a recession.  So out comes the 'I'm helping find a cure for cancer'....... Yeah it does sound a little far fetched. 

Does my involvement really help speed up the discovery of a cure for cancer, if one is even possible?  In the grand scheme of things my contribution is probably but a drop in the ocean.  So the answer to that question is no....  but (you knew there was a but coming).... folding is very much like voting.  My single vote probably doesn't make a difference, but it's the combined effort that produces the result.

So that explains my response of no / yeah kinda to what I feel my contribution means to the whole of Folding at Home  Now for the why (something that I shoehorned in right at the beginning of the previous explanation).

Having brought up voting I'm now going cram religion into this (not too deeply though - don't run for cover).  There is a school of thought with religion that goes something like: If I don't worship 'a god' and 'that god' turns out to be real, I have doomed myself.  If I do worship 'a god' and 'that god' turns out not to be real, what have I lost?

That can be applied to folding, more or less.  These days religion is on the down slide because the "what have I got to lose" is tangible.  Our (as in people in general) lives are so busy that a trip to church on a Sunday is actually a big chunk of time lost doing things that would otherwise be done in the week.  I know there is more to it than that but that's for another post (probably written on another blog).  Soooo back to folding.  To keep people interested the people behind the folding at home project have created a hook.  The data that needs processing is split into work units and sent out to donors (users running their application ) and points are awarded for every unit that is processed and returned successfully.

The points don't really mean anything other than for bragging rights, but they have helped cement a solid community.  Teams of people getting together and combining their points to try and be the team with the most points.  Not only that but friendly inter team rivalries can crop up too.  All this helps more work units get processed than without any hook in two ways.  Firstly it keeps people more interested in continuing to fold and secondly the rivalries push people to squeeze a few extra points out of their computer, requiring a bit of extra effort (one way or another) that otherwise would be deemed unnecessary.

It's the community that keeps me going.  I am part of a great team (Redline @ OC3D) and while we are not the biggest team we pull together, giving help, advise or encouragement where needed.  All this has landed us at rank 53rd in the world out of many thousands of teams. 

I have other personal reasons for folding which I won't go into (none of which involve myself or any close family suffering with cancer) for I have rambled on enough.  However I feel even without those the whole thing is a worthy cause.

So that's why I do it, why I will probably be posting folding updates and why I'm not going to stop any time soon.  :)

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