Having seen the PlayStation 3’s performance at the Folding@Home project, one couldn’t help but wonder how the Xbox 360 would fare with three SMT 3.2Ghz cores on board. Gizmodo asked the Microsoft guys point-blank, and then found out there’s already scientific projects potentially heading to the Xbox platform.
With the XNA toolbox already out in the open, it could be an easy project to get some protein folding going on, but it’s not the Alzheimer-solving folks at F@H that asked Microsoft to be joined first. David Baker, project scientist over at the Rosetta@Home project, mentioned the following in October 2006 when queried about 360s folding proteins on their project:
we have been discussing this idea with Microsoft quite a bit over the past several weeks; I will keep everybody posted.
While there has been no official update on the subject since, it could be interesting to see what 10 million Xbox 360s could do when all dedicating their spare processing power to find a cure for HIV together. A potentially interesting side note here could be that the Rosetta project has been granted some $20 million to further their research last year by… the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
A note of skepticism must be applied though. First off, the initial TFLOP ratings listed for the PlayStation 3 performance were highly inaccurate, and Stanford University has since corrected the values down by a whopping 50%. Secondly, a PS3 blowing all out to fold proteins consumes some 200 watts of power, and the Xbox 360 would not be using much less most likely. When left on fulltime for a year, that’s some 1750 kWh of energy per year. Assuming an in Europe not uncommon average price of 10 cents per kWh of electricity, that means your donations to scientific advances are costing you some 150 to 200 euro per year. Apart from that, you don’t want to know the amount of energy globally consumed if 50 million PS3s and 360s will be using that kind of energy all the time in 2 or 3 years from now, and the effects of that on the greenhouse effect and the environment in general.
Perhaps it’s just better to donate 50 bucks per year to the scientific institute of your choice, so they can buy far more energy-efficient supercomputers, and you have some money to spare to buy games. Saves you from having to listen to the 360 working full force all day as well.
Thanks nofear360 for the pointer!