Skip to comments.Gamers Help Fight AIDS: Online players solve a tough problem that had scientists stumped for a...
Posted on 11/22/2011 12:44:25 AM PST by neverdem
Online players solve a tough problem that had scientists stumped for a decade.
For more than 10 years, health researchers have been stumped by an enzyme that helps retroviral infections like AIDS reproduce. Biologists studying the enzyme were unable to model its shape, a crucial first step in figuring out how to beat it.
Recently scientists turned the problem over to an unusual team of collaborators: video gamers. Using Foldit, a free online protein folding game developed at the University of Washington in 2008, those gamers competed to see who could produce the most accurate virtual model of the real-life enzyme.
In just three weeks, gamers accomplished what scientists had been unable to do for more than a decadeno special scientific under- standing required. The game offers players an intuitive 3D modeling interface that can be learned in just a few minutes. It then awards a score for each model; a higher score means a virtual virus that more closely fits the known requirements for the enzyme.
For gamers, its a milestone. This is the first instance that we are aware of in which online gamers solved a longstanding scientific problem, according to an article published online by Nature Structural & Molecular Biology in September. But it wont be the last. The game goes on, and according to Foldits blog, more scientific revelations are already on the way.
We’re just learning everything that was known a millenia ago, as if its freshly new.
The most efficient way to learn new things is through playing games.
What you will notice after you’ve been around gamers enough (I’m not a gamer), is that they are obsessive about getting into a game, and winning. They are willing to put in eighteen hours on a Saturday (their day off), and discuss open strategies (something that some scientist hate to do) to win.
You had me going there... I thought you were gonna say something about Atlanteans knowing the secrets of protein folding.... lol
That is true.
What else helps is that, if you’re just playing a game, there is no fear of failure, either.
Unless you’re a professional gambler or something, it’s not going to ruin your life because you lost a game.
The lack of bad stress relaxes the mind.
Well they did. Their constant playing of games allowed them to develop their technology to such a point, that they keep themselves invisible to our sense and technology. :)
Science, at it’s most basic, is simply problem solving, so on the one hand, a story like seems entirely reasonable. On the other hand, something about it doesn’t seem to sit well with me. It would be interesting to know the educational background of these unknown gamers.
I’m running a PIII-1400-S CPU w/3x256 MB PC 133 (2-2-2-5) SDRAM.
Given that there’s no rational expectation to expect any change in my current situation; I can NOT help you.
It would be interesting to see how much firepower the gamers could bring to bear. :)
Even if the gamers are of average intelligence, you get a few thousand of them getting together, trying different ways of solving it, collaborating on solving pieces of it.
You don’t necessarily need geniuses to do what the scientists had the gamers do.
But that's pretty much what you had before, albeit Biologists (and whoever else) instead of Gamers. Thousands of people collaborating over ten years. A dilemma like this would also attract academic competition, so game theory should apply making the two paradigms not entirely dissimilar. It could just be me, but I don't see anything distinct from one method to the other which would justify the implied conclusion that someone from outside the field of Biology, or who otherwise possesses not higher education, solved the dilemma presumably by method alone. I could be wrong, and probably so, but it's just my suspicious nature.
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7 CPU X 980 @ 3.33GHz
Memory (RAM): Memory (RAM) 12.0 GB
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480
Gaming graphics: 4095 MB Total available graphics memory
Actually you don’t. :)
In a competitive like research, where billions of dollars are at stake, you have a few people on each research team competing against, not collaborating with each other, it’s almost like thousands of individuals who are trying to solve those pieces of the puzzle by themselves.
Secondly, that’s probably one weakness of being highly educated. When you’ve been told that one method is superior to another, there is a tendency to reject other ways, but the so-called superior way. On the other hand, if you take thousands of people who don’t know the superior way, they’re going to look at the problem very differently. They will try those inferior methods that you’ve rejected, just to see what it does. In gaming, you will jump off a cliff, just to see what happens. If you die, you know not to do that again. But there is a small chance that jumping down that cliff leads to some sort of secret passage.
Hey geniuses, AIDs can’t reproduce. It’s a syndrome of diseases and symptoms. Only a virus can reproduce. Which would be great if HIV actually caused 27 different diseases, but of course it doesn’t since it is nothing more than a harmless, ubiquitous retrovirus. Gamers. Yeah, they’ll save us! 40 year olds sitting in their mother’s basements in pee-stained underwear eating stale nachos and playing war! Good grief!
In my opinion it’s brilliant. And kudos to the scientist whom, ego aside, tapped into an unconventional resource and skill-set to solve a long-standing problem.