An experiment held April 3 by researchers at the University of San Francisco (USF) offered a new twist to the latest trend in supercomputing: using off-the-shelf computers networked together to generate the kind of processing power capable of solving the most complex research problems.

Last fall, students at Virginia Tech proved they could create a low-cost supercomputer by wiring together off-the-shelf desktops. The twist in the USF experiment was that hundreds of participants gathered in the university gymnasium for a one-day event designed to determine whether they could spontaneously muster enough power to compare with...

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