Thanks everyone who responded to the poll in my last message. On the subject of more efficient use of processor power in the service of humanity:
I was in the mall last week. We have an electronics chain here called FutureShop. They had some computers on display running movies, screensavers, etc. I counted them. There were 26 in this store operating. There are 137 FutureShop locations in Canada.
I started to think about how many computers are on display in electronics retail stores. Apple has about 200 stores worldwide. Circuit City has 566 stores. So just a rough estimate, there are ~20,000 computers operating in displays in these three retail chains doing nothing useful. The total number including other big chains and smaller retail spots is likely at least double this. Assuming 40,000 computers each running at about 1 GF/s, the combined computing power of display computers in retail stores for embarrassingly parallel computations (like quantum monte carlo) is about 40 teraflops, which would place Retail Electronics Supercomputer!!! (say this with Monster Truck Announcer Voice) somewhere in the top 100 fastest computers in the world.