Don’t ever let your parents tell you that playing online games is a ‘good-for-nothing’ pastime. The University of Washington (Animation Reseach Labs) has created the puzzle-game Foldit. The goal of the game: to develop the cure against the hiv-virus (which causes aids) in the real world. I kid you not!
What’s the deal here? The game Foldit lets you fold proteins, the ‘workhorses’ of every cell of every living being. Proteins can be ‘folded’ in many different ways and each of the different shapes gives the protein a different usefulness. Folded in a particular way could let the protein attach itself to, for example, the hiv-virus and make it harmless.
With the Foldit game, the University of Washington hopes that a dedicated gamer out there might design the protein that will form the cure against hiv/aids, but also ways to fight other diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. There are so many different forms a protein could be folded into that it would take computers hundreds of years to calculate all of them, the current computer programmes are not sufficient to solve the problem. by watching and analyzing human puzzling and problem solving techniques the university hopes to be able to build better programmes. And perhaps someone will come up with a brilliant protein in the process.
I do not think my intelligence or gaming/puzzling skills are efficient to solve any of the great worldwide problems, let alone a pandemic problem, which wouldn’t really motivate me to play with Foldit for ‘the betterment of mankind’. The Foldit team has anticipated that and actually made the game loads of fun. It’s real easy to get started and very addictive to play. So even if you don;t care about curing any sort of disease…. I recommend Foldit anyway. It’s free, easy to install and available for both Windows and Mac.