In Michael Nielsen’s upcoming book, Reinventing Discovery, he talks about methods of engaging a broad population in the process of scientific research; a kind of Cloud Army of Research Assistants. One of the examples he refers to is Foldit that uses a game to help understand molecular biology. In the SMH today, news of some progress there.
Developed in 2008 by the University of Washington, it is a fun-for-purpose video game in which gamers, divided into competing groups, compete to unfold chains of amino acids – the building blocks of proteins – using a set of online tools.
To the astonishment of the scientists, the gamers produced an accurate model of the enzyme in just three weeks.
Cracking the enzyme “provides new insights for the design of antiretroviral drugs”, says the study, referring to the medication to keep people with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) alive.