There is an offer for free beer at the end of this post
So on October 17th of last year, I thought it would be a cute idea to protest the 'Occupy' movement by doing something to effect change that I actually considered both worthwhile and somewhat measurable - I started my own Folding@Home team. If you've not yet heard about Folding, I'd encourage you to checkout the information over at Stanford University (http://folding.stanford.edu/English/HomePage
Here's my paraphrased version: Understanding certain diseases (BSE (Mad Cow), Alzheimer's, Huntington's, ...) means that you have to understand how different proteins in the body mutate under different circumstances. There are quite a few proteins in the body and each one could mutate in many different ways, so the math involved in testing each possibility gets to be pretty impressive. The Folding@Home project allows that computational workload to be shared over a great many computers; each machine taking a piece of the puzzle, working it, sending it back and asking for another. I generally let my computers do this sort of thing when I'm done using them for the day, but I haven't noticed much of a slowing effect when I've been working and Folding simultaneously.
Since October, my team (I'm the only member, but anyone's welcome to join) has climbed into the 94th percentile of active teams. This is both cool (curing diseases is pretty cool, even if you're just letting your computer do math in its spare time) and sad (really - there are tons of machines out there, sitting idle or browsing Facebook). So here's my invitation to you:
The Folding team has released a new version of there software that works on Windows, Mac and Linux. You don't need to be a computer nerd to install the software and it has a pretty visualization feature that will let you actually see the protein you're working on. You don't have to join my team (or any team for that matter), but you're welcome to: http://fah-web.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/main.py?qtype=teampage&teamnum=212094
I've seen people do a great many things with their computers, but letting it cure diseases while you sleep is tough to beat. Go ahead and install the software, pick a username and start curing diseases without thinking about it. If you post to this thread with your Folding username and happen to be in the Fredericksburg, VA area, let me know and I'll buy you a beverage of your choosing. I have no problem bribing people with beer, wine, soda, iced tea or whatever else in the name of curing disease.