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Sony, Stanford Show Science Is all Fun and Games

Sony Computer Entertainment has announced that its Playstation  3 (PS3) entertainment systems will soon support Stanford University’s Folding@home project, an ambitious distributed computing undertaking designed to help understand protein folding, misfolding, and related diseases.

Using the PS3’s Cell Broadband Engine to fuel a growing supercomputing network, the university’s project will run simulations of the incredibly complex process of folding proteins to help study the causes of diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis, and many cancers.

Running on its own, a computer would take as long as 30 years to run a single simulation. Folding@home shares the task across thousands of computers, which process portions of the data and then send them back to the project’s central computer. Given that the Cell/B.E. processor inside each PS3 is approximately 10 times faster than a standard PC’s processor, the addition of PS3s will speed up the project’s research.

"We're thrilled to have SCE be part of the Folding@home project," said Stanford’s Folding@home project lead and Associate Professor of Chemistry Vijay Pande in a prepared statement. "With PS3 now part of our network, we will be able to address questions previously considered impossible to tackle computationally, with the goal of finding cures to some of the world's most life-threatening diseases."

At the end of March, the Folding@home icon will be added to the Network menu of the PS3’s XrossMediaBar. PS3 users can join the program by simply clicking on the Folding@home icon or can optionally set the application to run whenever a PS3 is idle.

Sony said it will continue to leverage the PS3 to support distributed computing projects for various academic fields, such as medical and social sciences and environmental studies, and hopes to contribute to the advancement of science.

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About the Author

David Kopf is a freelance technology writer and marketing consultant, and can be reached at

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