Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gamers Solve Scientific Problems

Gamers Solve AIDS-Related Enzyme Puzzle, Helping Scientists Search For Novel Drugs - Popular Science 9/20/11

Really cool story here about scientists researching cures for AIDS-like diseases with the help of video game users. Apparently these gamers solved a ten-year mystery of how a specific enzyme is structured in a matter of weeks. This finding will have definite implications on understanding how these viruses attack the body using these enzymes and scientists can now begin formulating specific defenses for it. This is another example or a burgeoning trend towards "crowdsourcing", using large groups of people to process and understand data, to use reasoning and spatial recognition to solve issues that are still too complex for computers to tackle. To do it in a way that video game nuts can use their very specialized skills to work for a humanitarian-type solution is the coolest part. I hope to see more of this type of research in the future because of the amount of time to find a solution can be dramatically reduced by utilizing powerful networks already available. Very cool.

“The critical role of Foldit players in the solution of the (enzyme) structure shows the power of online games to channel human intuition and three-dimensional pattern-matching skills to solve challenging scientific problems,” the authors write.

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