Thursday, May 08, 2008

fold it!

Seriously, this is so awesome it gives me a brain freeze (thanks Kotaku):
Foldit is a game for the PC and Mac that takes the Folding@Home concept and adds a more human element to the mix. Instead of having a network of computers work through all of the possible shapes for folding proteins, a problem so huge it could take centuries for all of the computers in the world to solve, Foldit presents unfolded proteins to the player in the form of puzzles, on the basis that human intuition could tackle the problem much faster.

Also, from Science Daily:
A new game, named Foldit, turns protein folding into a competitive sport. Introductory levels teach the rules, which are the same laws of physics by which protein strands curl and twist into three-dimensional shapes -- key for biological mysteries ranging from Alzheimer's to vaccines.

..."We're hopefully going to change the way science is done, and who it's done by," said Popovic, who presented the project today at the Games for Health meeting in Baltimore. "Our ultimate goal is to have ordinary people play the game and eventually be candidates for winning the Nobel Prize."

Finally! I've had space on my mantle for a Nobel Prize for years, but all that "science stuff" really intimidated me.

Here's more:
Eventually, the researchers hope to advance science by discovering protein-folding prodigies who have natural abilities to see proteins in 3-D.

"Some people are just able to look at the game and in less than two minutes, get to the top score," said Popovic. "They can't even explain what they're doing, but somehow they're able to do it."

The game looks like a 21st-century version of Tetris, with multicolored geometric snakes filling the screen. A team that includes a half-dozen UW graduate and undergraduate students spent more than a year figuring out how to make the game both accurate and engaging. They faced some special challenges that commercial game developers don't encounter.

"We don't know what the best result is, so we can't help people or hint people toward that goal," Popovic explained. The team also couldn't arbitrarily decide to make one move worth 1,000 bonus points, since the score corresponds to the energy needed to hold the protein in that shape.

Excuse me, but I need to go start playing Tetris Science. I don't want you stealing my Nobel Prize (bitch), but go to fold it to register and download the program.

Site Meter