Sunday, September 18, 2011

Online Gamers Crack Scientific Puzzle

My wife found this article on The Bellingham Herald website:
For more than a decade, biochemists could not fully decipher the structure of a key protein, called a protease, that retroviruses such as HIV need to multiply. Knowing it would be a key step toward developing better anti-viral drugs.

So University of Washington scientists unleashed an avid group of online gamers. Within three furious weeks of play, pitting teams of non-scientists against each other, the gamers delivered the first accurate model of a retroviral protease. Knowing the structure is a key step toward finding better anti-viral drugs.
(Continue reading...)

As you know, I have been very critical of using computer modeling as a substitute for actual experiments. Computer models are tautologies.

This is different. This is computer-aided problem solving that leverages human strengths, such as pattern recognition, the ability to reason, and our natural propensity for competition. Cut-throat competition is harmful, but as in any successful government, when human nature is harnessed for good, it is very powerful indeed.

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