Sunday, March 19, 2006

Way Kewl Molecular Science

Read about a significant accomplishment in computer modeling/molecular biology HERE.

I began to participate in shared computer resources about 7 years ago when the first start was made by the scientific community. Called SETI@home it was an attempt to use the "down time" of personal computers to do massive analysis of radio telescope data collected by the Aricebo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico. It was run by a group at Berkeley. That same group has now refined it's interaction with users, and billions of hours of computing time have been provided to various projects. I now still participate in SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) but also in looking for a solution to the Protein Folding Probem, a really tough nut to crack. The entire system is now called BOINC.

This project used a supercomputer and here are a couple of grafs:

Running on a machine at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Urbana, the program calculated how each of the million or so atoms in the virus and a surrounding drop of salt water was interacting with almost every other atom every femtosecond, or millionth of a billionth of a second.

The team managed to model the entire virus in action for 50 billionths of a second. Such a task would take a desktop computer around 35 years, says Schulten. "This is just a first glimpse," he says. "But it looks gorgeous."

The fleeting simulation, published in this month's Structure, reveals that although the virus looks symmetrical it pulses in and out asymmetrically, as if it were breathing1.

The model also shows that the virus coat collapses without its genetic material. This suggests that, when reproducing, the virus builds its coat around the genetic material rather than inserting the genetic material into a complete coat. "We saw something that is truly revolutionary," Schulten says.

2 Comments:

Blogger Rev.Vapor said...

There is actually a project started long before SETI@Home that uses the shared computational power of idle computers called Distributed.net. It is setup to crack strong cryptography. Distributed.net and SETI@Home are both used to work on some pretty cool stuff. though.

1:03 PM, March 22, 2006  
Blogger John Stone said...

Interesting ... run by NSA no doubt? All the BOINC projects are good ones. It's fun to think that in some small way you are involved in a really big project. I have forgotten how many computer years have been used but it way up in the millions. I will look at distributed.net and see if they are still doing stuff. I wonder if it's a search for new prime numbers....

5:04 PM, March 22, 2006  

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