I found this news story beyond cool and into whole new unexplored realms of bad-ass.
For a little background:
One of the reasons AIDS has been so difficult to defeat even in our age of rapidly advancing scientific progress is that the vital agent which delivers its genetic code into host cells has eluded proper scientific understanding for more than a decade since its discovery in 1999. There is a retroviral protease ensyme (basically…a protein structure that enables the binding of retroviruses to host cells…the part of the process where the AIDS virus or any other similar retrovirus hijacks the RNA-making machinery of a cell to self-replicate) that has eluded proper understanding for over a decade, which, if its life cycle is properly mapped, could be destroyed before it does its damage, effectively starving the AIDS virus (amongst many others) of reproductive equipment, rendering them inert. Scientists have never been ble to map the assembly of that structure – they have no idea how the protein building blocks come together – until now.
It seems that if you turn complex biological problems into logic puzzles with clear game-like goals and scoring, then tens of thousands of people with no understanding of biology can attack your problem for you using pure logic and strategy as if they were playing chess or jenga. Foldit.com – a site that should be commended for its’ insight into human psychology and revolutionary software – received a copy of the AIDS reotrovirus ensyme a short while ago…and gamers solved its’ life cycle in less than 10 days, That’s right…biologists couldn’t solve it in ten years, but gamers can solve it in ten days. Wow.
It goes to show you that if you make learning fun and drive it through the parts of our brains that are most keenly developed (those being our strategic and logical reasoning centers, generally, because those are the evolutionary advantages that allowed us to conquer Neanderthal and claim the Earth at the top of the food chain), you’ll solve problems much faster than you will reading scientific literature, which is the EXACT OPPOSITE of fun.