Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - Solve puzzles for science

I just came across this amazing game/puzzle/software - call it what you will - Foldit.

It's an interactive protein folder that evaluates the energy on the fly to let you know how well you are doing.

But, and here is the important bit, the energy function is the same used in the Rosetta packages - a state-of-the-art protein folder (at least that's how I read it - the details are a bit sketchy). This is not a toy, but an exciting experiment to test whether human intuition and pattern recognition can compete with Monte Carlo sampling.

The screencast below (see a bigger version here) shows 6 intro puzzles that teaches you some of the techniques for protein folding. You get the program here and make an account for yourself here (making an account using Foldit did not work for me).

When you start Foldit the first time it takes you into the intro puzzles immediately (i.e. bypassing the menu).

I don't know where to start about the many implications of this program for fundamental science, teaching, and public outreach. So I'll simply say wow!, and go on to level 2-3. Not a moment to lose, CASP9 is underway you know!

June 20th, 2010 update:

Not sure why I didn't think to check youtube immediately but there are many videos about foldit. Here are a couple:

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