Folding@Home now Faster Than Fastest Supercomputer

computer screen

Scientists can use your help folding. In particular they could use your computer to help understand how proteins fold. In order to understand viruses and ways to fight them it helps to run simulations to see how proteins interact with each other. You can get your computer to devote a percentage of it’s computational power to helping that research, and thanks to enough people doing that the Folding@Home network is now more powerful than the fastest supercomputer!

If you have access to multiple computers you can spin them up and get them computing towards helping researchers create more efficient and safer drugs.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has been taxing for a number of computational biology and chemistry projects. IBM recently formed its COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium that pools together major supercomputers run by various research institutions and technology companies in the USA to run research simulations in epidemiology, bioinformatics, and molecular modeling. Cumulative performance of supercomputers participating in IBM’s COVID-19 HPC Consortium is 330 PetaFLOPS.

Folding@home distributed computing project uses compute capabilities to run simulations of protein dynamics in a bid to better understand them and find cures for various diseases. Recently F@H started to run projects simulating theoretically druggable protein targets from SARS-CoV-2, which attracted a lot of attention as SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 are clearly the hottest topics these days.

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3D Printing Respirators to Fight the COVID-19 Pandemic

drs with 3d print

The Italian health care system finds itself short on parts due to the influx of COVID-19 patients. Due to the nature of the virus people with it are more likely to need breathing support as lungs are in such a bad shape. Some geniuses at one Italian hospital decided to not wait for new parts and make their own instead. They 3D printed a key part of a respirator to help patients get through the worst aspects of COVID-19. Sadly, the company which manufactures the $11,000 part threatened the hospital with legal action so the ~$2 3D printed part won’t be available for other places.

This example is part of a greater movement of hackers, makers, and doers to create open source and 3D printable respirators for the medical system.

While the article uses the term “reanimation device”, it’s clear we’re talking about respirators here, necessary to keep patients alive during respiratory distress. The valve in question is a plastic part, one which likely needs to be changed over when the device is used with each individual patient to provide a sterile flow of air. After the alarm was raised by Nunzia Vallini, a local journalist, a ring around of the 3D printing community led to a machine being sent down to the hospital and the parts being reproduced. Once proven to work, things were stepped up, with another company stepping in to produce the parts in quantity with a high-quality laser fusion printer.

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Avoid these Evil Tech Companies

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Tech companies have transformed from the stereotypical scrappy startup to the stereotypical megacorporation hellbent on making money before all else. Google is a great example of this transition from a company doing good to a company getting in arguments with its employees about how evil they should be. Slate asked a bunch of smart people working in tech who think is the most evil and created the following list linked below. Why is this good? Well now we know which companies we should try to avoid.

The tech industry doesn’t intoxicate us like it did just a few years ago. Keeping up with its problems—and its fixes, and its fixes that cause new problems—is dizzying. Separating out the meaningful threats from the noise is hard. Is Facebook really the danger to democracy it looks like? Is Uber really worse than the system it replaced? Isn’t Amazon’s same-day delivery worth it? Which harms are real and which are hypothetical? Has the techlash gotten it right? And which of these companies is really the worst? Which ones might be, well, evil?

We don’t mean evil in the mustache-twirling, burn-the-world-from-a-secret-lair sense—well, we mostly don’t mean that—but rather in the way Googlers once swore to avoid mission drift, respect their users, and spurn short-term profiteering, even though the company now regularly faces scandals in which it has violated its users’ or workers’ trust. We mean ills that outweigh conveniences. We mean temptations and poison pills and unanticipated outcomes.

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Enjoyment of Life Increases by Deleting Facebook

kids

It’s well known that Facebook is bad for your mental health, and let’s be honest it’s likely bad for humanity at large. The engineers at Facebook purposefully create algorithms to get you hooked on the site and exploit your emotions so you spend more time on the site. Why? So they can sell your data to advertisers. This all combines to make an experience that feels good at the time, but is ultimately bad for you (like junk food). People who left Facebook report lower levels of depression and improved we’ll-being.

If deleting Facebook is too much for you, just reduce your use of the site. Trust me, once you stop regularly checking it you won’t miss it.

People who deactivated Facebook as part of the experiment were happier afterward, reporting higher levels of life satisfaction and lower levels of depression and anxiety. The change was modest but significant — equal to about 25 to 40 percent of the beneficial effect typically reported for psychotherapy.

Why are people willing to pay so much money for something that reduces their happiness? One possibility is that social media acts like an addictive drug — in fact, the people Allcott et al. paid to deactivate Facebook ended up using it less after the experiment was over. But another possibility is that people use services like Facebook because they’re compelled by motivations other than the pursuit of happiness.

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A Website Powered by the Sun

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The world wide web consumes a lot of energy to keep running as it is. The energy sources we use to power the net can make a big difference in the baron footprint of the entire web, which has led one website owner to see if they could run their website using only the sun. It turns out that a relatively small solar setup can do the job.

One catch is that the website had to do without some dynamic elements like a constantly updated database or calls to ad services and other trackers. Reducing your carbon footprint is yet another reason to use ad blockers AKA tracker blockers.

That said, both the network infrastructure and the end-use devices could be re-imagined along the lines of the solar powered website – downscaled and powered by renewable energy sources with limited energy storage. Parts of the network infrastructure could go off-line if the local weather is bad, and your e-mail may be temporarily stored in a rainstorm 3.000 km away. This type of network infrastructure actually exists in some countries, and those networks partly inspired this solar powered website. The end-use devices could have low energy use and long life expectancy.

Because the total energy use of the internet is usually measured to be roughly equally distributed over servers, network, and end-use devices (all including the manufacturing of the devices), we can make a rough estimate of the total energy use of this website throughout a re-imagined internet. For our original set-up with 95.2% uptime, this would be 87.6 kWh of primary energy, which corresponds to 9 litres of oil and 27 kg of CO2. The improvements we outlined earlier could bring these numbers further down, because in this calculation the whole internet is powered by oversized solar PV systems on balconies.

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