It’s not often, lately anyway, that we read a story that makes us want to fistbump the whole interwebs and shout, “Fuck yeah humans!”
Butthis is one of those stories.
Video-game players have solved a molecular puzzle that stumped scientists for years, and those scientists say the accomplishment could point the way to crowdsourced cures for AIDS and other diseases.
“This is one small piece of the puzzle in being able to help with AIDS,” Firas Khatib, a biochemist at the University of Washington, told me. Khatib is the lead author of a research paper on the project, published today byNature Structural & Molecular Biology.
The feat, which was accomplished using acollaborative online game called Foldit, is also one giant leap for citizen science — a burgeoning field that enlists Internet users tolook for alien planets, decipher ancient texts anddo other scientific tasks that sheer computer power can’t accomplish as easily.
“People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at,” Seth Cooper, a UW computer scientist who is Foldit’s lead designer and developer, explained in a news release. “Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans.”