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IPFS News Link • Technology: Software

Distributed Humans Smarter Than Distributed Computers In Solving Complex Biology Problem

• Rebecca Boyle via PopSci
Puzzle-loving gamers are better at solving molecular biology problems than a supercomputer, according to a new study published today in the journal Nature. Playing a game called Foldit, which involves protein folding, gamers outsmarted computers on problems that required radical moves, risks and long-term vision.

The researchers, based at the University of Washington in Seattle, are incorporating the best Foldit players' strategies into their own algorithms. Forget distributed computing -- this is distributed thinking.

In what might be a video-game first, gamers will see their work translated into actual protein structures designed in the lab, according to the University of Washington. Last year, a Texas player who goes by the name "BootsMcGraw" was the first Foldit player to have his new protein design synthesized in the lab. Though it didn't work, the researchers plan to try again and are optimistic about the possibilities, according to a press release from UW.

The program stems from Rosetta@home, which works like SETI@home in that it uses a network of idle home computers to crunch data. Biologists were using Rosetta to figure out how proteins develop their final three-dimensional shapes. They know which amino acid chains make up proteins, but the way they're structured is not well understood, and that knowledge has huge potential, because proteins act as gatekeepers in the body.

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Lucky Red
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Must be all that abstinence and Intelligent Design education.  It really does make people smarter.