A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

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A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby Alan C. Lawhon » Thu Dec 20, 2012 9:16 am

Dear Dr. Bowman:

Greetings. My name is Alan C. Lawhon, a resident of Huntsville, Alabama, USA. I am a brand new “protein folder” as I am currently in my eighth day of folding with close to 30,000 points accumulated and 70 WUs completed. (I fold under the moniker: “Lawhonac”.) Recently my machine was crunching one of your WUs, (i.e. Project 10125), which is attempting to understand the folding dynamics of RNase H, a key component of the HIV virus. As I was reading the study goal for your project, I recalled comments from Dr. Pande in an online interview where he stated, paraphrasing slightly, “FAH is currently limited by [a finite amount of] computing power.” Dr. Pande indicated that his team has envisioned plans for simulation projects which would require 500,000 CPUs/GPUs as well as other projects which would require 1,000,000 donor machines. (I believe the current total of machines donating CPU cycles is below the 500,000 threshold.) That is what I would like to discuss with you – how can we go about getting a million (or even more) donors to volunteer their spare CPU cycles to the FAH project?

I have had the good fortune of meeting a few celebrities during my lifetime. One thing I have noticed about “famous” people is that they do have the capacity for attracting attention. People listen to celebrities and take note of what they have to say as well as the causes they support. In fact, if a well known movie star, television personality or professional athlete gets seriously interested in a subject or issue, that celebrity can bring an enormous amount of attention to that subject or issue. In reading the technical description of your project 10125, I recalled that Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the former NBA basketball star, has the HIV virus. The actor Michael J. Fox has Parkinson’s disease – as does my foster sister. I’m almost certain there are other well known celebrities, (besides Magic Johnson and Michael J. Fox), who are afflicted with these diseases – or have loved ones afflicted with these diseases. Whether you are famous or not, nearly everyone knows someone who is affected by these diseases.

It occurs to me that it would be worthwhile for Stanford University (and the Stanford Medical School) to consider hosting a special one-day “by invitation only” seminar inviting special people like Magic Johnson and Michael J. Fox to attend a presentation by Dr. Pande (and yourself) where each scientist working on the project would explain their area of research and what you/they are hoping to accomplish. (You should be included specifically since your Project 10125 would be of special interest to Earvin Johnson. Any other scientists doing research on the HIV virus should also be included – especially if Magic Johnson attends the seminar.) If there are projects underway related to Parkinson’s disease, those folding projects would be of interest to Mr. Fox. If there are other celebrities with relatives or loved ones suffering from any of the neurodegenerative diseases, those people should be invited too. The goal should be to attract a special group of 15-45 (or more) well known people and hope that, (after they have listened to the science and listened to a carefully thought out appeal for their support), five, ten (or twenty) of these celebrities would agree to go on shows like “The Tonight Show” and David Letterman to encourage people to get involved with FAH. (Jay Leno is an obvious person to invite since he knows just about everybody in Hollywood. If you can establish a line of communication with Jay and/or his agent and get Jay interested, there’s no telling how many celebrities Jay might “persuade” to join him for a one day seminar.)

If you can persuade a room full of celebrities to take an active interest in FAH, this could snowball. Here’s a quick idea just off the top of my head: Let each celebrity who is so inclined encourage people to sign up and join “their” folding team. For Earvin Johnson, there would be a “Magic Johnson” folding team. If Cameron Diaz gets involved, she might encourage people to join the “Cameron Diaz” team. If these stars and celebrities have web pages, they could add a hyperlink to their web site directing people over to the Folding@Home web site. (They might include a “teaser” on their web site encouraging people to join their FAH team.) If this is handled just right, you could wind up with these celebrities and sports stars getting competitive with each other over whose “team” has the most members and the most points. (Of course, you would have to set up a separate page on your web site devoted exclusively to “Celebrity Teams” where people could see at a glance how well their star’s team is doing in the FAH competition.)

This is a wild thought on my part, but it is not outside the realm of possibility that a well known celebrity or star athlete could have a team with 100,000 members up against another celebrity who has a team with 150,000 members. If this catches on, the number of donors could go up real quick. (The Pande Group might have to buy another 100 servers. Wouldn’t that be nice!?) Also, FAH would go back to the top [over IBM] as the world’s largest distributed computing project. It will take some hard work (and careful planning) to bring this together, but the payoff could be enormous. (Somebody at Stanford will have to spend a lot of time talking to celebrity agents and publicists …) Any folders reading this who just happen to know a celebrity – or have a relationship with somebody who is close to a celebrity – might consider sharing this with that person.

These celebrities should be invited to this “celebrities only” gathering by the President of Stanford University and the Dean of the Medical School (as well as other high ranking dignitaries) since the goal is to try and impress upon these folks that this is important and their role in encouraging people to donate is equally important. After attending such a seminar, if just a few of these celebrities go on programs like “The Tonight Show” and/or radio talk shows and mention Stanford’s “Folding at Home” project, you might have (who knows?) maybe a million people hitting your web site and downloading the software. (Think how many people from Great Britain might become donors if Queen Elizabeth or Kate Middleton showed even the slightest interest in FAH?)

This is an off the wall “guesstimate,” but I would think there are [at least] 500 million personal computers sitting on desks around the world – many of them sitting idle a great deal of the time. (I imagine a lot of those idle computers are pretty fast crunchers.) If celebrities and sports stars who are personally touched by these diseases take a personal interest in FAH and actively encourage just one-half of one percent of those 500 million computer owners to participate; that would be two-and-a-half million CPUs crunching work units. Think of the simulations that could be done with that much computing power!

I hope you will share this with Vijay so that he can share it with his higher ups. All of you involved in the Pande Group are doing God’s work, so I thank you for your efforts and your dedication. I am hopeful that the work you are doing will one day lead to a cure which can help my foster sister. I am very proud (and my computer is proud) to be a very small part of the work you are doing.

Sincerely,

Alan C. Lawhon
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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby Jonazz » Thu Dec 20, 2012 12:22 pm

SOunds good to me, but the PG has stated before they do not wish to publicly advertise FAH.
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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby compdewd » Thu Dec 20, 2012 1:18 pm

Firstly, welcome, Alan, to folding and to the forums! :D It's always good to see new, enthusiastic folders! I would like to commend you for your enthusiasm for the project. In fact it personally has inspired me to do more about making the project known to others! Just wanted to let you know that!

I first got started with FAH because I was looking for something for my computer to do while I wasn't using it. I found an article about what to do with your computer in its spare time that mentioned (at the bottom) about this thing that helped scientists learn about protein folding. I clicked the link that was given and here I am today. It was the greatest thing that could have happened! Unfortunately, I had to go looking for FAH rather than the other way around. It would be great if FAH was advertised to more people and I think that celebrities could do the trick! Unfortunately, it's hard to get a celebrity's attention and the celebrity whose attention you get may not turn around and proclaim it like we would wish, and then the resources used to get the celebrity's attention could have been used elsewhere for the project. One reason I see for the PG not advertising is that there is no free way to advertise FAH except for individuals telling their friends and family about it. Basically anything else will cost, and the PG has limited resources like everyone else.

I know that your participation and enthusiasm will help out the project so keep it going! We're glad to have you here!
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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby Jesse_V » Thu Dec 20, 2012 8:04 pm

JonazzDJ wrote:SOunds good to me, but the PG has stated before they do not wish to publicly advertise FAH.

Really? Could you point me to a link where they said that? It may be a lack of spare time and extra money on their part. Time that's currently spent doing research and teaching classes (many of them are professors), and money that's used for software development and paying for servers.

So a lot of it is up to us through word of mouth. That said, if you check folding.typepad.com, they do have a viral video planned or something like that. See this post: http://folding.typepad.com/news/2012/11 ... n-fah.html
F@h is now the top computing platform on the planet and nothing unites people like a dedicated fight against a common enemy. This virus affects all of us. Lets end it together.
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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby mmonnin » Thu Dec 20, 2012 8:42 pm

That'd be great if a celeb would show support for FAH in some way.

I started with United Devices because I saw an article in a magazine then moved over when I heard Stanford was running FAH instead of companies. I started back up folding when I saw a special on Fold It on TV. After that their website mentioned their servers were slow due to the extra traffic. Even a 15min segment on a Discover science show would be great and gather interest from new people.

Who wouldn't join a Megan Fox team!?!?! ;)
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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby Ravage7779 » Thu Dec 20, 2012 9:21 pm

This has Oprah written all over it...
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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby Alan C. Lawhon » Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:19 pm

Ravage7779 wrote:This has Oprah written all over it...


Wow! That is beyond comprehension. If Oprah Winfrey were to do a one hour show on her network talking about FAH (along with a smattering of stars and celebrities such as Magic Johnson and Michael J. Fox) the interest generated from that one event might melt the FAH servers! If Oprah herself encouraged her viewers to donate their machines and join "The Oprah Winfrey Team," there would probably be a new team record within a week - maybe within a day! I don't know how many people watch Oprah every day, but how many people do you know who (literally) have their own television network!? If Oprah Winfrey gets involved in FAH, a million new folders is probably the low end of the range. Think about that ...
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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby Napoleon » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:57 am

Win7 64bit, FAH v7, OC'd
2C/4T Atom330 3x667MHz - GT430 2x832.5MHz - ION iGPU 3x466.7MHz
NaCl - Core_15 - display
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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby Alan C. Lawhon » Fri Dec 21, 2012 3:46 am

Napoleon wrote:dDoS :?:


Dear Napoleon:

I'm not an internet TCP/IP expert, but I suppose 100,000 (or more) users all hitting the same URL virtually at the same time would bring any web site to its knees. That's why I suggested the Pande Group might have to buy another 100 servers - although I'm not astute enough to know if that's how you handle a sudden onslaught of web site traffic. If a miracle happens and this winds up going big time with a feature show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, some kind of planning-in-advance will have to take place in order to handle a tsunami of simultaneous "hits" on the web site. It would be a shame if a person of Oprah's stature does the heavy lifting of attracting potentially hundreds of thousands of new donors to the site only to have most of them give up in frustration due to slow response. If the site is currently handling somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000-plus CPUs and GPUs, I would think it should be possible (doable) to increase capacity/bandwidth sufficiently in order to handle a deluge of new visitors to the site. (If there is big time media exposure somewhere down the road, I suppose the team will have to do an "Oh poop, we're getting hit by a flood!" simulation to get an idea of how well the site stands up to a sudden surge of traffic.)

Oh BTW, you have quite an impressive hardware and software setup. I'm jealous. :)

Alan
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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby Napoleon » Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:07 am

Alan C. Lawhon wrote:It would be a shame if a person of Oprah's stature does the heavy lifting of attracting potentially hundreds of thousands of new donors to the site only to have most of them give up in frustration due to slow response.

My apologies for sounding dismissive with the DDOS comment. FAH certainly could use more donors, but wouldn't it be better if the (wealthy) celebrities did a bit more than some lame publicity stunt along the lines "Fold, it does a body good!"?

How about "I just donated funds for 100 servers for Stanford's Pande Group to ensure the continuity and great responsiveness of the Folding@Home project in the long term. Now fold'em to death!"?

My sceptical side simply keeps telling me that while celebrity endorsement might do a whole lot of good, it would have to be a great deal more persistent than a casual conversation in a single Oprah show or some such to make any difference in the long term. If you look at the overall client stats, there has been a grand total of over 7.5 million CPUs (donors?) already. About 0.15 million CPUs (donors, again?) have stuck with the project. The real gimmick from any celebrity would not be just to get them to fold, but to keep them folding. A difference...
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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby bruce » Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:42 am

Alan C. Lawhon wrote:(The Pande Group might have to buy another 100 servers. Wouldn’t that be nice!?)


Notwithstanding Napoleon's joke about dDoS, this is a valid concern but probably not as big as you might think. It certainly would be nice, though I doubt it would actually take that many servers. Buying and configuring servers isn't a process that can be done overnight.

For many years, FAH has followed a growth plan which includes gradually adding servers in anticipation of an anticipated growth rate and for the most part this has worked well. A sudden large jump in that growth rate could, in fact, exceed the anticipated hardware growth plan but as Dr. Pande once said of a similar plan, Now that's the kind of problem we'd like to have. :) Of course it all depends on how large the jump would be compared to whatever has already been anticipated.
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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby uncle fuzzy » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:19 am

Add a couple well known computer geeks to the mix to actually demonstrate downloading, installing, and running the v7 client to show how easy it is. They'd be able to explain how folding could affect your other computer use, and what to do about it.

Have all the "celebs" make a pledge on what they will donate to the program- money, computer time, whatever. We need them to do more than just put their name on a team.
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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby Alan C. Lawhon » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:29 am

A friend of mine ("Jim") read my OP and sent me an email encouraging me to stay after this. I responded to my friend as follows.

Jim:

I haven't received a direct response (via email) from either Dr. Bowman or Dr. Pande, but I don't interpret that as a bad sign. (A "bad sign" would have been if the site moderator had withheld my very first post from the forum.) They put the post up fairly quickly for review and comment from other members of the FAH community. (I interpret "that" as a good sign.) Of course, I'm hoping that the Pande Group research team has put this "novel idea" on the agenda for discussion during their next weekly staff meeting. Dr. Pande stated, in an interview transcript I read, that the team could use substantially more processing power - that they could run even larger protein folding simulations with more CPU cycles - so I suspect there will be some interest in pursuing my suggestion. (Of course, they might also decide "Well, this guy is a nut and we'll just ignore him! Maybe he'll go away after awhile and leave us alone and let us do our work.") I think they'll take several days (to a week) kicking this around before they officially respond. Something like this has to go up the chain of command.

I'm also hoping that within the next week or so one (or several) of the 150 to 200 hundred thousand participants in the FAH project will forward my post - and the entire thread - to a famous celebrity. (Somebody in the FAH community has to personally know - or be related - to a well known celebrity.) That celebrity - who may have a loved one who is personally affected by one of the neurodegenerative diseases - will read my post and start asking questions. If that famous person contacts the FAH team on their own initiative saying: "I want to help. What can I do?" this thing could take off like a rocket headed to the moon. If the Stanford folks receive an expression of interest from somebody like Oprah Winfrey, I think they would be crazy to snub Oprah. If Oprah really gets interested and does an hour-long show highlighting what the Folding@Home project is about and what they're trying to accomplish, they could easily get another 100,000 volunteer donors - at a minimum - and could get a million new donors. (If Jay Leno invites Magic Johnson and Michael J. Fox to appear on his show to talk for about 10-15 minutes about Folding@Home, who knows how many donors that might attract? The possibilities make your head swim.)

One of the interesting things about celebrities and Hollywood folks is how "wonderful things" tend to happen when they get personally involved. (Remember the "We Are The World" song and video Hollywood's "A List" stars and recording artists teamed up on to fight hunger in Africa back in the 1980's?) This is the kind of thing that people, and especially famous people, can feel good about getting involved with. There's another not-so-subtle factor that might be at play here ...

If the Pande Group at Stanford is able to secure the equivalent of one or two million CPUs of processing power - which would represent a 3x to 6x increase over the processing power they currently have - there will likely be some very significant discoveries and breakthroughs resulting from their simulation work. It's not out of the realm of possibility that a Nobel Prize in Medicine could wind up going to Dr. Pande and his Stanford colleagues. If that should happen, I have a feeling the Dean of the Stanford Medical School, as well as Stanford's President, would be favorably disposed toward presenting Oprah Winfrey with an honorary degree as a Doctor of Humane Letters. It would be a well deserved honor.

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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby Napoleon » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:42 am

Got to retract my scepticism somewhat. Now that I think of it, there was sort of precedent not too long ago: the HP Cloud Service burn-in. That didn't last, of course, but for a while HPCS churned out WUs like there's no tomorrow:

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FAH infrastructure seemed to handle that particular spike just fine and a whole lot of work got done. Now I'm wondering whether that was a coordinated effort between PG and HP, or did some bigwig at HP simply decide to fold a little before going public with the service? :)
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Re: A Bold Idea For Significantly Increasing FAH Donors

Postby Jesse_V » Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:22 am

To a certain degree, this happened for Foldit. Its breakthroughs got a lot of publicity, including in the Discover magazine that I subscribe to. This could work for F@h too, as long as the documentation, project descriptions, and other writings are simple enough, and the software is intuitive to use. Foldit has this advantage. Idk if we're there perfectly there yet, but over the last year there's been some excellent progress towards this goal and things certainly are a lot brighter than they were last year. :) (The community has listed a number of remaining issues with F@h in this thread: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=21367)
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