Weekend Diversion: The Best (and Easiest) Charity Ever!

"You cannot hope to build a better world without improving individuals. We all must work for our own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity." -Marie Curie

Most of us remember the importance of being charitable on a few rare occasions throughout the year, most commonly around the year's end. But what about the rest of the year? Obviously, we don't have an unlimited amount of resources, so for most of us, it's not a viable option to do as Magnolia Electric Company suggests, and

Give Something Else Away Every Day.
But what if I told you there was a way to donate to charity, help advance science, and give yourself a chance to win a nice sum of money, at really no cost to you?

May I present to you The Charity Engine, the best supercomputing project I've ever heard of. You might have heard of individual projects like Einstein@Home, which has found 16 pulsars since its inception, or SETI@Home, which sifted through telescope data for signals of extraterrestrial intelligence. Both of these relied on sending unprocessed data to individual computers all across the internet, having users donate their spare processor time to doing these computations, and sending the finished work back to the server. This basic idea -- borne from the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing -- is the core of the Charity Engine.

But the Charity Engine goes far beyond any of these projects. Let's say you've got an enormous computing job and not enough computing power to do it. I don't care whether you're a scientist, a University, or an independent company, where do you go? Enter the Charity Engine!

Charity Engine takes enormous, expensive computing jobs and chops them into 1000s of small pieces, each simple enough for a home PC to work on as a background task. Once each PC has finished its part of the puzzle, it sends back the correct answer and earns some money for charity - and for the prize fund. (It also earns more chances to win.)

Where does the money come from? Science and industry. The grid is rented like a giant supercomputer, then all the profits shared 50-50 between the charities and the lucky prize winners.

Charity Engine typically adds less than 10 cents per day to a PC's energy costs and can generate $10-$20 for charity - and the prize draws - for each $1 of electricity consumed.

It is the most efficient way to donate to charity ever invented.

As you can see, above and below, they've got an impressive array of charity partners, and a strict commitment to only rent the grid to ethical users, and to treat you, the donor, ethically, too.

You can follow them on facebook and twitter, and by joining, you can become part of what they're hoping will become the world's fastest supercomputer within a single year! For each additional dollar (or pound, or euro) you spend on electricity on this application, you generate about twenty times as much for the Charity Engine, which gets split, 50/50, between their charities and their users. (That's you!) And you never have to think about it; it only uses your CPU's idle time, and turns itself back off as soon as you try to use your machine again! (The worst thing it does is make itself your screensaver and require a restart after installation.)

Best of all, you've got a great reason to support them: they come certified by Starts With A Bang! Let's say you want to, I don't know, simulate the formation of a galaxy -- from scratch -- in the Universe?

Video credit: Fabio Governato et al./U. of Washington/NASA Advanced Supercomputing.

You and hundreds of other people, right? Who decides whose project is worthy of the Charity Engine's power? They'd need some kind of expert to help them decide, right?

There's an entire science panel, and yours truly sits on it, to help decide which projects get the 5-10% of the grid permanently reserved for pure science! So you're not just supporting charity, you're supporting legitimate science, hand-picked by me and the rest of the science panel! (Plus, their CEO is a huge fan of this blog, so you know there's good taste involved here!)

Read more about them at crunchbase, Fast Company, and one of Charity Engine's charity partners, OxFam. This is a great opportunity for everyone to support science, help charity, and -- for those of you who feel lucky -- maybe win a small fortune while you're at it. How can you not feel good about this; get started and help make something wonderful happen today!


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Hey Linux work !
Just install boinc, ( throught your package manager, or from BOINC site ) and choose " attach to acc manager, now insert url adres ( from CHEN ) and password what you set when you account was create, wait for succesful connect and now pc can crunch for CHEN, But because there is no work distributed by this grid for linux based OS, ( like work created, payed by companies for crunch ) PC getting only "scientific" WU´s from back up projects like Rosseta@, Einstein@ and Malaria@. Actualy I having CHEN acc under boinc with my linux PC and also with other "classic" boinc project´s ( WCG@ collatz@ and more :) SFBE

By MC´crunching (not verified) on 24 Apr 2012 #permalink

Hey Ethan
You should check out Kiva it's well worth adding to your list. I've been doing it for a while now. http://www.kiva.org/

By Kaja Malouf (not verified) on 28 Jan 2012 #permalink

Great idea! Thanks for listing it â my computer is happily beavering away on Einstein right now!


By Sachi Wilson (not verified) on 28 Jan 2012 #permalink

This is a great idea! I have yet to do it, but I'm using a similar service. Changejars.com donates a percentage of whatever you buy online. It's another way of supporting charities without having to actually volunteer or donate money.

I think it's useful because I'm a college student and don't really have money to donate. These tools give me the power to donate.

No Linux version. Shame. Their loss.

Joined last night. I realized this morning when I checked to see what kind of work my computer got done overnight that I needed to disable the sleep/powersaving functions... I wonder how many new members Ethan has turned on to the great idea!


At last count, Starts With A Bang had sent over 101 new active users. Not bad for the first 24 hours!


Yes, I know, PC and mac only. Maybe someday...

Hi Ethan,

Great post! That is such an awesome idea. The power of the Charity Engine seems breathtaking.

I just have a quick question about the galactic merger simulation you posted. In the simulation, near the end, it seems that, just like in our solar system, the edges of the spiral are spinning slower than the inner portions. It was my understanding that our galaxy most decidedly does not behave in this manner. Does this model take into account dark matter? If not, is that because it's too difficult to model? If so, why does the simulated galaxy do this?

Thanks in advance!


By Michael McArdle (not verified) on 30 Jan 2012 #permalink

Hi folks,

You CAN run it with Linux.

Just download 'regular' BOINC and set the Account Manager to www.charityengine.com. (Don't try to attach Charity Engine as a project, that won't work!)

Keep checking your account to see your points - and please use the "verify email" button (you'll see it), which is needed to claim the prize in some jurisdictions.

A big welcome to the new users, and huge thanks to Ethan for agreeing to help oversee the science allocation - and also for explaining how Charity Engine works better than we ever did...!

Add two more members, Ethan. I've been following your blog for a while and this is a great project. My wife and I joined yesterday.

Thanks for the link!