Beowuld schmeowulf...

Spike Jones (
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 force multiplier.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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].
  3. 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.
  4. 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 computing effort.
  5. 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