black holeSource: Educated Earth

Some of you may have heard of distributed computing projects like Folding@Home or SETI@Home, if not then let me explain. Distributed computing essentially involves performing a computational intensive task across multiple computers in order to achieve a common goal. @Home networks simply allow users all over the world to contribute to various computing projects by using their spare PC processing power.

It’s pretty clever but this isn’t a new idea, SETI@Home started all the way back in the 90s, and currently at least 400,000 machines are collaborating over various networks to solve problems ranging from looking for aliens to studying Parkinson’s disease.

Ok so where does all this fit in with Android, black holes and other crazy space phenomena? Well in a recent interview with Wired, Professor David Anderson, the computer scientist behind the original SETI@Home project, talked about the continued effort to bring distributed computing to Android, including a relativity new project called Einstein@Home.

For the last six months, Anderson and his team have been building and updating their BOINC software which allows for distributed computing on Android smartphones and tablets. There’s actually an app already available in the Google Play Store. The move to Android has only recently been possible thanks to the increasingly powerful hardware used in the latest smartphones, as a result the BOINC app is now specifically designed to take advantage of ARM chip-sets.

He also mentioned that the Einstein@Home computing network would be supported in the next few months, which will allow users to assist in the discovery of pulsars, black holes, and gravitational waves. It’s pretty awe-inspiring to potentially be a part of discovering some of the most mysterious and illusive aspects of our universe, and you won’t even need to break out a calculator or telescope.

Einstein@Home on the hunt for gravitational waves

Source: AEIEinstein@Home on the hunt for gravitational waves

The upcoming updates will also hook Android users into other projects which are running on IBM’s World Community Grid, which is looking to help tackle Malaria through drug research.

Also you needn’t worry that computing all this stuff will drain your battery or totally take over your device. BOINC will only start data-crunching when your smartphone is charging and connected to a WiFi network, and even then it makes sure not to interfere with other CPU intensive tasks or overheat your device.

If you’re interested in becoming involved in the search for black holes or want to dedicate some of your computer’s spare processing power to tackling cancer, then check out BOINC for Android or similar projects like Folding@Home. After all, it’s for science.

Robert Triggs

Lead Technical Writer covering SoCs, displays, cameras, and everything in between. In his spare moments you’ll find him building audio gadgets.