It looks like Sony will be able to market the upcoming Playstation 3 as a “medical miracle” because of its integration with folding@home. BBC News is reporting that the PS3, which is scheduled for release in November, can be setup to donate the system’s idle time to the folding@home project.
The folding@home project was started in hopes to gain an understanding of protein folding and misfolding. Here is a snippet from the project’s homepage that describes why that is important:
Proteins are biology’s workhorses — its “nanomachines.” Before proteins can carry out these important functions, they assemble themselves, or “fold.”
Moreover, when proteins do not fold correctly (i.e. “misfold”), there can be serious consequences, including many well known diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s disease, and many Cancers and cancer-related syndromes.
To help the team learn more about protein folding they have asked PC users for years to donate your computer’s idle time to simulate the folding process. The problem is that it takes a normal PC 10,000 days to simulate one complete fold even though it takes 10 microseconds to happen in your body.
Surprisingly, the processor that is in the PS3 (which is called a cell) has the ability to run up to 10 times faster than current PC’s. It is estimated that 10,000 PS3’s working together would have the same computational power as IBM’s BlueGene/L System supercomputer. That’s more than 280.6 trillion calculations each second!
Of course, it will be kinda cool to put it on your PS3 because “the Cell microprocessor does most of the calculation processing of the simulation, the graphic chip of the PLAYSTATION 3 system (the RSX) displays the actual folding process in real-time using new technologies such as HDR and ISO surface rendering.” Here is a quick video on what that will look like:
Read more about this on the folding@home PS3 announcement page.