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Search the skies for pulsars while your Android device charges

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smartphones on a table
smartphones on a table

Researchers from UC Berkeley are searching for pulsars and more effective AIDS therapies, and you can help by offering the university access to your idle Android smartphone. Like Stanford University's famous Folding@Home project, the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) has relied on the public to donate processing time with desktop and laptop computers. But with its new app, UC Berkeley will be able to tap into the largely untouched world of mobile devices to boost its research efforts.

Donors can choose to help a specific research project

Projects that use BOINC's processing power include Einstein@Home, which analyzes telescope data in search of pulsars and Asteroids@Home, which calculates the shape of asteroids by analyzing scattered light reflections. There are currently six different projects listed in the Android app and users are able to choose a specific research group to help. By default, the BOINC app is intended to run when you're not using your phone, and will automatically activate when the device is plugged in, has a battery level of over 95 percent, and is connected to a Wi-Fi network.

The app is currently Android only, but that still provides plenty of potential processing power to the project. "There are about a billion Android devices right now," said Anderson. "Their total computing power exceeds that of the largest conventional supercomputers."