Were I considering writing a list of ‘things to do until Ratchet and Clank is released' for my PS3, Stanford University's Folding@Home app would feature pretty high on the list; and I am not alone. A staggering 670,000 Playstation 3 owners have pushed the distributed programming initiative into the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest in the world.
Technically the record is dated to September, when F@H surpassed the petaflop mark, that is to say, 1,000,000,000,000 floating point operations per second. To put that in perspective, the world's most powerful supercomputer, IBM's Blue Gene/P, runs at a continuous one petaflop and is itself a networked solution of over 200,000 machines - the only difference is they all sit in one rack.
The program, for those not familiar, gets its name from the activity which it simulates, protein folding, the results of which are being used in curing many diseases such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's and various Cancers. While the program has been able to boast over 200 teraflops of power before adding the PS3 to the mix, the console is now pulling in the region of 900 teraflops by itself.
Vijay Pande, Stanford's professor of chemistry commented on the progress of the initiative, saying that "…it is clear that none of this would be even remotely possible without the power of PS3, it has increased our research capabilities by leaps and bounds." So, what are you waiting for? Stop playing flOw, get folding and help your fellow man a little.