Here’s another interesting twist on that “crowdsourcing” idea (and
thanks to teachers who sent me emails with some really intriguing
crowdsourcing suggestions for biology).
FoldIt. This is a free, online computer game, designed by David Baker
at the University of Washington, where anyone can compete to fold
proteins. The program uses trial and error, along with pre-programmed
mathematical rules that govern the folding possibilities. So players
use their own computers to try and fold a protein. The more chemically
stable the protein becomes, the more points the player is awarded.
Right now the game is set up with proteins for which the three-
dimensional structures have been solved, but soon they will include
proteins for which the optimal folding is not known. So, as players
try their hand at it, they will be helping scientists with protein-
structure research. In addition to that, they hope to also introduce
the capability to allow players to design all-new proteins. How about
that for scienfific outsourcing!?
Here’s an article on the HHMI site about it.