Culture Mar 18, 2020 8:12 PM EST

Gamers can help defeat the coronavirus

Gamers may have a special role to play in the fight against the coronavirus. They can lend the excess cycles of their CPU and graphics processors to fight against the pandemic.

Gamers can help defeat the coronavirus
Ian Miles Cheong Montreal, QC
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Gamers may have a special role to play in the fight against the coronavirus. With some of the most powerful computer hardware available at their fingertips, gamers can lend the excess cycles of their CPU and graphics processors to fight against the pandemic.

Folding@Home, a distributed computing project developed by Stanford University, was designed to fight diseases not unlike the COVID-19 coronavirus that has swept the globe following the outbreak in China. It has aided research for cures to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and many forms of cancer.

The application simulates protein folding (hence the name), allowing scientists to tackle previously intractable problems in computational biology that would typically require millions of hours of cycles from supercomputers unavailable to them. So instead of having to rely on a single, powerful computer to do the heavy lifting, the app distributes this workload to computers connected to the network.

In other words, the app uses computer simulations to model proteins—providing scientists with a better understanding of how atoms move and interact within the protein, thus giving them much-needed information on how to treat a disease.

And guess who’s got computers powerful enough to do that? Gamers with graphics cards powerful enough to run titles like Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (a game with a scenario not unlike the coronavirus pandemic we’re dealing with) at the highest settings. All those spare CPU and GPU cycles not used by the video games can now be used to globally simulate computational drug design and protein folding, which could hasten the development of a vaccine.

Greg Bowman, director of Folding@Home, explains: “Viruses also have proteins that they use to suppress our immune systems and reproduce themselves. To help tackle coronavirus, we want to understand how these viral proteins work and how we can design therapeutics to stop them.”

In simple terms, if you’ve got a computer, you can “donate” your spare CPU cycles to power research to better understand COVID-19, how it works, and what we can do to kill the virus. And the more powerful your computer, the more you’ll be contributing to it.

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