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Using Smartphones to Cure Diseases While You Sleep

Berkeley and IBM's Boinc app kicks in on a volunteer's phone when it's charging and not in use, to avoid interfering with day-to-day activities. Photographer: Paul Taylor/Getty Images
Berkeley and IBM's Boinc app kicks in on a volunteer's phone when it's charging and not in use, to avoid interfering with day-to-day activities. Photographer: Paul Taylor/Getty Images

For more than a decade, millions of people have aided in the search for extraterrestrial life simply by running an application on their computers. Today, 3 million people still use the SETI@home program to crunch complex scientific data sets when their computers are sitting idly.

Some researchers behind that initiative at University of California, Berkeley, are teaming up with International Business Machines to find a new way to crowdsource the next big scientific breakthrough. Their goal is to someday tap billions of smartphones for everything from curing AIDS to discovering new stars.