[email protected], the Stanford University’s ambitious distributed computing project aimed at unlocking the mysteries of protein folding has hit another great milestone. It is the first to achieve a petaflop mark by a distributed computing initiative. The lion’s share of the processing power is contributed by Sony’s PlayStation 3 game consoles.

Known amongst the scientific community, a petaflop is the ability of a computer to do one quadrillion floating point operations per second (FLOPS). In other words, if every person on the planet were to perform a simple mathematical calculation, such as calculating a percentage, each person would have to perform 75,000 calculations every second for the world’s population to achieve a petaflop. []

Current statistics on the project’s home page show processing capacity at 1P Flops (floating point operations per second) with 804T Flops from the PlayStation 3. A further 163T Flops are from Windows-based computers and 43T Flops from graphics processors.

The project is attempting to unlock the mysteries of protein folding. It’s suspected that misfolds in proteins are the cause of several diseases, including Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, BSE, and some forms of cancer so better understanding the process could lead to medical breakthroughs.

The computer power needed to perform the modeling and calculations is immense but the problem is such that it can be broken down into pieces each of which are handled by different machines. PlayStation 3 owners who enable the [email protected] application contribute unused power of their console processors to the task.

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[tags]petaflop, playstation, sony, [email protected][/tags]