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EFF Cooperative Computing Awards Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ Index

(1) Questions about the EFF cooperative computing awards

(2) Questions about prime numbers

(3) Questions about cooperative computing

(4) Other Questions

(1) Questions about the EFF cooperative computing awards

Q1.1: Where did the idea for the cooperative computing awards come from?

A1.1: The EFF is interested in advancing collaboration and cooperation in cyber-space. The cooperative computing awards are an incentive to stretch the computational ability of the Internet.

Q1.2: Where did the prize money come from?

A1.2: An anonymous donor has provided the prize money.

Q1.3: How will the prizes be awarded?

A1.3: Claims will be examined, by the cooperative computing award advisory panel. subject to the official rules. The EFF board will award the prizes based on the recommendation of the computing award advisory panel.

The advisory panel is composed of:

Q1.4: I found a large prime, what should I do?

A1.4: Read and follow the official rules. In particular, be sure that you:

  1. Document the date and time of your discovery
  2. Have an independent party knowledgeable in the field of computation verify your result
  3. Write a paper and submit it to a reviewed academic journal
  4. Send a copy of your submitted abstract and citation, along with the other required information, to the address listed in the official rules

If your algorithm is a well established and published one, your paper need take up little more than two paragraphs: one saying what the prime is and who verified it, the other citing the algorithm and the computational resources used. But, keep in mind that you may be required to supply the computing award advisory panel with more information should the panel determine that the information supplied is insufficient. For this reason, providing more than just minimal information in your paper, if allowed by the journal editors, is recommended.

If you have further questions about the process, write to the questions address in the official rules using the approved subject line.

(2) Questions about prime numbers

Q2.1: What is a prime number?

A2.1: A prime number is a whole number that can only be divided exactly by 1 and itself.
For example, the first 6 prime numbers are:

2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13

6 is not a prime number because it can be divided by both 2 and 3.

The prime glossary contains a more detailed definition.

Q2.2: Why are prime numbers interesting?

A2.2: Prime numbers are interesting because:

  • They have fascinated mathematicians for centuries
  • They are a corner stone of secure web sites, Electronic commerce and privacy protected EMail
  • ... and because they are there :-)

For further information on prime numbers, see the ``Who cares?'' section of the prime number pages.

Q2.3: What is currently the largest known prime number?

A2.3: The Top 20 list has the largest known prime number.

(3) Questions about cooperative computing

Q3.1: What major scientific applications require this kind of massive social cooperation?

A3.1: There are many problems that require massive amounts of computation. Social cooperation thru cooperative computing is one way people participate in solving such problems.

Here are a few examples where cooperative computing can help:

For more information on cooperative computing check out the GIMPS and Beowulf web sites. They are doing interesting development in ways to manage massive social cooperation projects.

Q3.2: Is this only good for science? What are the implications for business?

A3.2: Many problems requiring massive cooperative computation are the sort that people volunteer their time and energy toward, like investigating mathematics, decoding the human genome, or exploring the strength of encryption codes. But many other problems with similar computational requirements benefit a company or another small group of people. Providing a way to solve these problems efficiently, as well as the large science problems, will make a better society, by using currently wasted resources to solve these peoples' problems.

Such problems will only attract tens or hundreds of thousands of people contributing their spare cycles if they find a way to reward the people. The usual such reward is money. (The EFF Cooperative Computation Awards are an attempt to do this on a gross scale, by offering a chance at a large reward, but in a cooperative computation market with better infrastructure, large numbers of participants would get a small amount, rather than small numbers of participants getting a large amount.)

We believe that in the medium term someone will build infrastructure for buying and selling computer time in various sizes. This would let you sell your spare computing cycles to someone who wants to buy them from you to work on such problems. The market value of your cycles would constantly vary, based on how many people want to buy and sell cycles on any given day. One could easily imagine an investment firm spending $100,000 to 'rent' a hundred thousand computers overnight if they believed they could thereby make $200,000 by investing based on the result of the computation. Each person whose PC they used over the net that night would perhaps be paid a dollar; if they rented out the machine every night they'd end up with $364/year.

A manufacturer might improve the design of its next product by parallel exploration of alternative designs; perhaps a design investment of $25,000 worth of computation would result in manufacturing savings of $100,000 or more over the life of the product, or a sturdier product that would save $100,000 in warrantee repairs. An environmental group might rent $5000 worth of computer time on an hour's notice, to plot the spread of an oil spill based on current weather patterns, so they can send their limited manpower to the best places to contain the spill. Hours after a crisis breaks out, the War Department might do some intensive image analysis to compute likely target locations -- or perhaps evaluate potential ways to break up a hostage situation without loss of life. When nobody wanted to buy your time for such things, your computer could keep busy helping to predict next week's weather, or looking for prime numbers, as a volunteer.

At the moment there is no way to rent 100,000 computers for a night or for an hour -- or to get any cash out the 99% of your PC that you don't use each day. There are many problems to be overcome in doing so, such as providing privacy and security to both the buyer and seller. We believe the societal advantages of having a market for massive computation will make it worth someone's time to solve the problems and create such a market -- someday soon.

(4) Other Questions

Q4.1: I am a journalist and want to know more about the cooperative computing awards, who can I ask?

A4.1: Contact EFF's press contact address.

Q4.2: What is a refereed academic journal?

A4.2: A refereed academic journal is a publication that uses a peer-review process to select articles. It is a recognized authority for the subject areas that it covers and as such its articles are normally technical in nature.

Q4.3: What is considered an approved refereed academic journal?

A4.3: Approved refereed academic journal are published by Universities, Research Institutes and Professional Organizations. We suggest that you publish in a computing or mathematics journal that uses the peer-review process.

We strongly recommend that you submit your result to the appropriate refereed academic journal listed under rule 4F of the official rules.

If you wish to know prior to submitting a paper, if a journal is appropriate, write to the questions address in the official rules using the approved subject line.

Q4.4: I still have more questions, who can I ask?

A4.4: Write to the questions address in the official rules using the approved subject line.

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