Kill some free time and help out science at the same time with Foldit – an experimental puzzle game that, simply by playing, helps computers to deal with bioinformatics and protein folding.
The basic aim is to ‘manipulate’ the protein on screen according to a set of ‘rules’ – these are deemed ‘puzzles’ but are actually doing something a bit more intelligent beneath the surface.
Wikipedia is a bit more clued up on this, saying: -
“The process by which living beings create the primary structure of proteins, protein biosynthesis, is reasonably well understood, as is the means by which proteins are encoded as DNA. Determining how the primary structure of a protein turns into a functioning three-dimensional structure ā” how the molecule “folds” ā” is more difficult; the general process is known, but predicting protein structures is computationally demanding.”
“Foldit is an attempt to apply the human brain‘s natural three-dimensional pattern matching abilities to this problem. Current puzzles are based on well-understood proteins; by analysing the ways in which humans intuitively approach these puzzles, researchers hope to improve the algorithms employed by existing protein-folding software.”
Admittedly the game is no World of Goo in the ‘ace to play’ stakes but will no-doubt be a hit with puzzle-hounds.