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New world. Help research on the coronavirus with your personal computer

Covid-19 coronaviruses seen through an electron microscope. Illustrative photo. (IMAGE POINT FR – LPN / BSIP)

Unity is strength. This is the principle of the program Folding @ Home, a shared computer program that uses the power of personal computers for research into diseases, including the Covid-19.

One of the scientific avenues for the treatment of the Covid-19 pandemic is the modeling of coronavirus proteins. This requires considerable computing power. However, computing power, we all have a little bit with our personal computers at home. The Folding @ Home program allows everyone to pool this shared power.

To participate, it's quite simple. Just go to the Folding @ Home site and download and install the small program offered. It will then run in the background on your computer (almost 95% of the power of personal computers is unused). It works just as well under Windows as under macOS or Linux and you obviously need an internet connection. With the millions of people already participating, the Folding @ home program is currently reaching a computing power greater than 470 petaflops, that is to say 470 million billion operations per second. That's three times more than the most powerful computer in the world.

What's the point ? The project manager posted a first 3D representation of a coronavirus protein tip on Twitter. Here's what it looks like:

Washington University School of Medicine / Folding @ Home

This research is open and disseminated to several laboratories around the world as part of an international scientific collaboration.

Other programs are in the process of being implemented. In the United States, the Covid-19 High Performance Computing Consortium brings together organizations such as IBM, NASA, Microsoft, HP, Google and Amazon. It brings together 16 supercomputers for a total of 330 petaflops, in the service of research that should lead to treatments and a vaccine. If the numbers are to be believed (330 versus 470), the power of these 16 supercomputers is however less than the cumulative power of the Folding @ home collaborative program.

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