bitcoin mining

Sometimes I just wonder if all the computing power put into mining bitcoins could instead have been put to better use crunching data for projects such as folding@home or seti@home. Instead, these complex calculations to mine bitcoins serve no practical purpose. While I understand the rationale behind these calculations (they need to be difficult to solve but easy to verify), a part of me cant help but think if there is another way around it. Someone should perhaps put an effort into trying to make use of these calculations instead of them being simply a waste of power. Definitely not me though, I am already having enough trouble just trying to understand exactly how bitcoin works. Just like tor, hopefully, I will eventually get around it.