Spike Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mon, 23 Aug 1999 22:16:26 -0700
Emlyn, regarding your thesis, you might consider studying a phenomenon
that Greg Stock spoke about at E4, the effect of cash prizes on research,
such as distributed computing. His thesis, if I understood it correctly, is
that when a prize is offered for a feat, several times the amount of the
prize is spent by all the participants collectively in the attempt to claim
the prize. How many jillions are spent trying to win a Nobel prize of a
few hundred K? For this reason, cash prizes act as a technological
For your computer science thesis, consider distributed computing.
The reason this is so study-able is that some distributed projects
such as GIMPS have available the amount of computer time being
produced as a function of time. see
You can see computing accomplished as a function of date and
results reported as a function of time of day, etc.
Heres where your research could go:
- Get in touch with Scott Kurowski, the organizer of GIMPS,
see if he will give you the raw data that is shown in graphical
form on the site above.
- With that data, do a butterworth filter or similar digital
filtering technique [fourier transform to frequency domain,
filter out the yearly component, then inverse transform back
into time domain, etc].
- Use that data to determine how the introduction of the
cash prize, announced on 1 April 1999, effected the number
of participants. Determine if the claim of the first EFF prize
on 1 June 1999 caused the masses to lose interest and
give up, or did the publicity cause more to sign on, etc.
- Determine if the *way* in which the EFF prize was
structured actually contribute to the overall effort, or did it in
fact, *detract from* the effort by encouraging participants
to leave the organized search and go off treasure hunting alone.
This lone wolf behavior creates a situation where the same
exponents may be checked by several people instead of
just two, decreasing efficiency of an organized distributed
- See if you can figure out a good project for distributed
computing that uses idle CPU cycles. We have a lot of idle
computers on our list and a lot of open minds. spike