While you are asleep, or making a cup of tea, your computer could be working on little projects of its own. It might be communicating with a worldwide network of other computers to try and answer perplexing questions. Or it could be on the look out for new life-forms.
Luckily it's not the advent of Cyberdyne Systems' SkyNet but rather the ability for ordinary home computers (PC, Mac OSX and Linux based) to work together harnessing the idle processing power to make a grid based super-computer. And you could be part of the effort...
The BOINC project, from Berkeley University, lets you donate computer time to multiple causes, divided up however you want. For example, your PC could spend 20% of its time searching for extraterrestrial life (SETI@home), 40% studying climate change, and 40% studying protein folding, design and docking as part of the Rosetta@home project ).
The BOINC client can also be used to support tasks run by IBM as part of the World Community Grid - currently supporting the FightAIDS@Home and Human Proteome Folding projects.
Have a look, sign up for an account and start putting some of that amazing computing power at your fingertips to a good use... and you can display graphs to show how much help you've contributed.
If you need any help each science project runs it's own forums, and there are some at the main BOINC site but one of the best sources of knowledge is the Unofficial BOINC Wiki.
If you install the software on multiple machines you can use the supplied manager to control the remote machines, but BoincVIEW is currently a much more friendly client...