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Computing Resources Donated To Aid COVID-19 Research
May 19, 2020

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is possibly the world’s strangest telescope. Located at the South Pole, it is made up of over 5,000 basketball-sized light sensors embedded in a cubic kilometer of ice. According to information, thousands of computers back at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), IceCube’s lead institution, scour data from those sensors for evidence of elusive subatomic particles that originate in outer space: astrophysical neutrinos.

Now, some of these computing resources are being used to simulate something different – protein folding of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. How proteins fold into three-dimensional shapes is difficult to predict but has big effects on biological interactions, like those between a virus and its host. These simulations will help researchers understand how the virus compromises human immune systems and reproduces.

While IceCube remains operational, its home research center at UW-Madison, the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC), is temporarily providing some of its available computing resources to Folding@home. This citizen-science distributed-computing project crowdsources computationally intensive tasks like simulating protein dynamics. Distributed computing projects like Folding@home combine the power of thousands of individual computers contributed by their owners to process different portions of data simultaneously, significantly speeding up their results.

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