Grand theft auto: Levinthal paradox city

I doubt many people think about protein folding when shopping for a new video game console, but if you’re interested in protein folding and thinking about buying a PlayStation 3 next month, there’s an article on you should read. Apparently “Sony worked with Stanford University’s ”“>Folding@home project to harness the PS3’s technology to help study how proteins are formed in the human body and how they sometimes form incorrectly.”

Folding@home is a distributed computing project, which means you can download a program onto your computer (in this case, your new PS3) that will enable you to donate ‘down time’ to analyze chunks of data. By dividing the “”">calculations into smaller packets … [the computers can] do jobs that would strain the most powerful supercomputers." And since the PS3 has a pretty powerful graphics card, you can apparently “”">watch the protein as it folds."

Folding@home isn’t the only distributed computing project out there: you’ve probably heard of SETI@home and there are a number of other projects, including Rosetta@home, the Drug Design and Optimization Lab, and fightAIDS@home.

I think this is a great idea: Sony hopes to sell 2 million PS3s in the United States and Japan in 2006 and 6 million worldwide by March, so using gaming consoles in @home projects could dramatically decrease the time needed to do these computations…


Joshua Finkelstein (Associate Editor, Nature)