The Way It Works

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-12-08 Print this article Print

The way this all works: Those interested register on the World Community Grid and download the 40MB bit of screen-saver-like software that allows the project to tap into the processor. After it is installed, a model of a type of molecule is then sent to the computer; when the screen saver comes on, the software automatically runs an analysis on the model to determine if it has the properties needed to be included in the construction of the polymer plastic.

Millions of molecules need to be analyzed-one at a time. That's why it's so time-consuming to do it in one location.

"When you're working on the machine, none of the power is used [for the project]," Aspuru-Guzik said. "It's only when the machine is idle that the software turns on and starts the calculations."

Project Can Cut Research Time from 22 to 2 Years

Using volunteers' computers in the grid to run these numerous calculations can shorten a project that would normally take about 20 to 22 years to just two years, Aspuru-Guzik said.

The IBM World Community Grid currently has about 1 million computers linked to it. IBM created the network a couple of years ago; it might eventually be considered to be among the top 10 most powerful supercomputers in the world, thanks to its sheer size and scope.

IBM, naturally, includes security software to protect the participants' computers.

"It's a way for people that have computers to do some good for the world," IBM engineer Joe Jasinski said.

Aspuru-Guzik said that about seven volunteers signed up on the first day. "We hadn't even announced it yet," he said.

The Clean Energy Project is the 11th project to run on the World Community Grid and is one of six active projects currently running.

"We are not asking people to change their habits when using their computer," IBM Vice President of Global Community Initiatives Robin Willner told me. "We've packaged up these services into a mashup of sorts, and it's very safe and secure. And the benefits to the user are wonderful."


Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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