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Rosetta@homeIt isn’t every day that we are presented with a chance to save lives, just from using our computers.

David Baker, 43, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington, has been trying for years to find an AIDS vaccine or a cure for cancer. However, he hasn’t had the funds nor the right kind of computer needed for his research.

Ultimately, the only way for him to conduct his research was to turn to strangers and their computers through networks. His research team uses the computing power from “tens of thousands of PCs whose owners are donating spare computer time to chop away at scientific problems over the Internet.” The project is called Rosetta@home, and more than 60,000 people have donated their computer power to aid Baker and his team.

How it works: “The project sends work to computers that have installed the necessary free software. When the machine is idle, it figures out how an individual protein — a building block of life — might fold or contort, displaying the possibilities in a screen saver. When the PC is done crunching, it sends the results back to Baker’s team and grabs more work.”

If you’d like to help with the project, visit to learn about system requirements and how to download and install BOINC—a free, open-source software for distributed computing.

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