Many of you are probably already aware of SETI@home, "a scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence." Another global effort worth investigating is the World Community Grid, initiated by IBM in the fall of 2004. The computing topologies of these two efforts are fundamentally different: in the SETI@home architecture, the center of computational gravity lies at each client, who grabs a chunk of radio telescope data, munches on it, then spits back the results, whereas the World Community Grid is a classic grid that, to an application, looks like a massively parallel machine. One of the central projects currently being run on the Grid is the Human Proteome Folding project whose purpose is to predict the three-dimensional shape of various proteins, an analysis that's critical to understanding how a protein works and binds to other compounds (which in turn is key to the creation of new drugs).
At the very moment I'm writing this blog entry, the Grid has over 100,000 devices attached. The project team tells me that about 12,000 years of compute time have been applied to the proteome project. Nonetheless, the projects being undertaken by the Grid are intensely compute bound, and the team would like to have a half a million devices on the grid.
I urge you to visit the site and give some serious though to applying the idle time of your personal machine (or that of your company's) to the Grid.