12-15 dedicated gamers did in less than 10 days what scientists studying the AIDS virus have never managed to accomplish, they solved a molecular puzzle that has been a headache for AIDS researchers for a very long-time.
Known as “citizen science” the game called Foldit asked gamers to manipulate virtual structures that look like Tinkertoys. Players worked in tag-teams to find the most efficient molecular configuration, a process often witnessed in nature.
With the successful completion of the new gaming model scientists now hope to use citizen science in other endeavors including biofuels, the development of new drugs and even genetic engineering.
While the idea of solving complex molecular structures might sound like fun, biochemist Firas Khatib tells MSNBC that it’s not quite like playing Angry Birds and other popular games, he notes:
“Let’s be honest, proteins aren’t the sexiest video game out there.”
Regardless of how much fun the system may or may not be, the ability to control the outcome of entire technologies, medicines and other man made items might be just enough to create a culture around social science based gaming
Would you be willing to pore over a tedious social science game if it meant you could help find the cure for cancer or build the next generation of biofuels?