Gaming for Science

Just a quick link to a Guardian post summarizing a bunch of cool online games that help advance science along the way. The human brain is very good at pattern recognition, sometimes better than computers. Sequence alignment or protein folding are examples of biological problems computers (and scientists) have difficulty solving. Scientists are now exploiting the combined brain power of online gamers as a tool in computational biology. Just as fun as a game of tetris it seems, and knowing you are solving real problems is of course a bonus (although some might just see it as another Candy Crush Saga, which of course is fine as well as long as they are solving problems!). Foldit is one of the oldest such games. From Wikipedia:

In 2011, players of Foldit helped to decipher the crystal structure of the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV) retroviral protease, an AIDS-causing monkey virus. While the puzzle was available to play for a period of three weeks, players produced an accurate 3D model of the enzyme in just ten days. The problem of how to configure the structure of the enzyme had stumped scientists for 15 years.

Phylo also looks neat. Unfortunately the computing power involved precludes these games from being played on a smart phone (at the moment).


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