The Bitcoin network can be thought of a distributed supercomputer dedicated to a single computational task – maintaining the Bitcoin system itself – which is a very useful task by itself. But there are many distributed computing projects, such as Folding@home and SETI@home, dedicated to important scientific tasks, Melanie Swan reports. Wouldn’t it be great if the huge computing power of the Bitcoin network could be harnessed to support science?
It turns out that two ambitious projects want to do just that.
Gridcoin is a new peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that uses distributed computing (BOINC) to benefit humanity by advancing the progress of medicine, biology, climatology, mathematics, astrophysics, and more. The aim of the Gridcoin project is to shift the computational power primarily to BOINC projects whilst the POW mining calculations become a second priority – so as the mining network scales up, the network’s BOINC contribution is scaled up in tandem.
BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) is an open-source volunteer oriented computing grid that combines the processing power of all individual users for the purposes of scientific research. Originally developed to support the SETI@home project, it is now used as a platform for other distributed applications in areas as diverse as mathematics, medicine, molecular biology, climatology, environmental science, and astrophysics. The intent of BOINC is to make it possible for researchers to tap into the enormous processing power of personal computers around the world.
Gridcoin miners are rewarded with GRC – the Gridcoin currency – and at the same time they help to solve some of humanity’s biggest problems such as disease and cancer and/or contribute to valuable citizen science projects, such as fundamental cosmology research and the search for alien civilizations.
FoldingCoin is a Bitcoin 2.0 project created to support Folding@home, a distributed computing project for disease research that simulates protein folding, computational drug design, and other types of molecular dynamics. The primary purpose of Folding@home is to determine the mechanisms of protein folding, which is the process by which proteins reach their final three-dimensional structure, and to examine the causes of protein misfolding. Folding has important implications for medical research into degenerative neural diseases and many forms of cancer, among other diseases. The ability to predict a protein’s final structure, and to determine how other molecules may interact with it, has important applications to drug design.
Instead of creating yet another altcoin, the developers of FoldingCoin have decided to go the Bitcoin 2.0 way. Following an emerging trend, they are using a Counterparty Digital Asset as incentive and reward method.
Participants are rewarded with “FoldingCoin” tokens (FLDC) that can be transferred from person to person using the Bitcoin blockchain and the Counterparty protocol. FoldingCoin is valuable because it represents time and resources contributed to important medical research. The FoldingCoin team is working on getting FLDC on select cryptocurrency exchange sites, so that cryptocurrency investors will be able to buy the token from participants and support their computer folding time.
I like both projects because they try to establish incentive and rewards for volunteer distributed computing for important citizen science projects. Gridcoin is more general, because it can be used with all the projects that run on the BOINC software (the majority of citizen science projects). FoldingCoin is more innovative and sustainable, because it uses the real Bitcoin blockchain instead of relying on yet another me-too altcoin with an uncertain future. I hope both projects will find a committed audience and bring citizen science forward.
SETI@home, the first crowd-source citizen science project, started in 1999 and then ported to the BOINC platform, dedicated to finding candidate signals from alien intelligences, is a citizen science project with a really huge potential payoff if successful. The project has had chronic funding problems in the last few years. Wouldn’t it be great if the crypto-economy of the blockchain could help putting it on a more solid financial ground? The Gridcoin project directly supports SETI@home, and perhaps other projects could establish a Bitcoin 2.0 platform for SETI@home.
What do you think of Gridcoin, FoudingCoin and blockchain-based citizen science? Comment below!
Images from Shutterstock.