The subject of mathematics
currently utilizes distributed computing the most. There are numerous mathematical
projects that are currently running or have already been completed, like the
aforementioned Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search and the Optimal Golomb Ruler
Search. The number of mathematics-related projects outweigh scientific research
because it is easier to create a program that solves purely mathematical problems,
as opposed to cracking a more scientific problem that involves complex sets
of dependent variables.
finding the bits of Pi
The PiHex project was one
of the first successful distributed computing projects on the internet. To date,
the PiHex project has discovered that the five trillionth and forty trillionth
bits of pi are 0, in Hexadecimal format. The first calculation took a short
five months with only 25 computers running the software.
A bit of pi is different
than typical numbers, though. The five trillionth number of pi isn't 0, but
the bit is. PiHex utilizes the Bailey-Borwein-Plouffe algorithm, which
allows one to calculate the dth digit of pi without calculating the d
- 1 digits. (Finch) This algorithm lends itself well to distributed
computing since ranges of calculations can be assigned. The formula, however,
gives answers in base 16 — numbers that are not based on the number 10 which
we are familiar with. Whereas typical numbers have ten distinct digits, from
zero to nine, numbers with a base of 16 have sixteen digits; they start at zero
and go through nine, then use the first six letters of the alphabet. Still,
even the five-trillionth bit calculation is quite a feat when compared to the
previous pi-bit record of a mere one trillionth bit.
With over 500 computers currently
working on the project, PiHex's last goal — to find the quadrillionth bit of
pi — is becoming a reality. This PiHex project should have been completed earlier,
but the client isn't very complex, and the user must set up some things manually.
That leaves room for error: the PiHex project was set back because some users
accidentally deleted data from a log that they shouldn't have, and other users
encountered overheated computer problems, which returned the data to the PiHex
server with errors. (Percival)
Fig. 2: Bits: Mathematical as well as cryptography projects can utilize them.
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