Science By Screensaver

Inspired by the success of SETI@home, biologists launch a flurry of distributed-computing projects

The fastest supercomputer in the world doesn't really exist. Or rather, it exists, but only in a virtual sense: as a network of machines scattered around the globe, linked via the Internet to three powerful servers grinding away in a lab at the University of California, Berkeley. SETI@home, as the sprawling system is known, has been online for about a year searching for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence by tapping into the spare number-crunching power of (at last count) 2.3 million PCs.

It's called community, or distributed, computing, and the phenomenal popularity of SETI@home has spawned something of a distributed-computing craze. This...

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