Lately, there’s been a lot of news about the outbreak of the Coronavirus, and sadly, most of the information about the spread has been negative and filled with doom. And I’m not diminishing any of that. I mean, people have died, and people are still dying. And no matter what the leader of the US says, a cure is way off from being found. Hopeful thinking is just that, hopeful.
However, there is something that each and every one of us can actually do to combat the virus. I’m not talking about washing your hands and not coming to work when you’re sick (although those are also very good things to do in order to stop the spread), but a group of scientists based out of Stanford University have come up with a novel approach that might just help to come up with a solution.
If you remember the old SETI@home experiment from a few decades back, scientists had hit a snag in trying to analyze huge swaths of information that had been downloaded from radio telescopes over the years. Basically, they needed a series of supercomputers to analyze the information, but those things are expensive, and just not something they had access to. So, they did the next best thing, and they created a proto-Internet, where people could download a screensaver that would then take a tiny piece of the data, analyze it, and then send it back to SETI. They did this for decades, and only recently (literally a couple of days ago), they stopped the program so that they could finally start going through the data that was crunched by the gobs of computers that signed up for the original program, downloading and crunching the information over the years.
But this isn’t about SETI. It’s about the Coronavirus.
Scientists at Stanford realized that a similar approach could be taken for developing the molecules that actually combat the virus. You see, chemistry has the ability to take certain compounds, rearrange them and then get different outcomes based on numerous different placements of acids and compounds. But all of that takes a lot of computation. Gee, why does that sound familiar?
Well, they’ve now designed an interface, much like the SETI@home project, to actually start analyzing different compounds that can be used to defeat the Coronavirus. And like SETI@home, all it takes is signing up for the program so that the computing power of your computer can be used to assist in the number crunching like the original program. And as a bonus, they’ve developed an interactive computer game you can play as part of the process of the design to create the structure needed to solve the crisis.
So, if interested, you can download the program here.
It’s kind of nice to actually be able to participate in doing something about this pandemic, other than be a bystander or victim. But people actually need to do something.
And sometimes that’s tougher to make happen than the solution itself.