“Following the failure of a wide range of attempts to solve the crystal structure of M-PMV retroviral protease by molecular replacement, we challenged players of the protein folding game Foldit to produce accurate models of the protein”, the University of Washington research team said in its findings. “Remarkably, Foldit players were able to generate models of sufficient quality for successful molecular replacement and subsequent structure determination. The refined structure provides new insights for the design of antiretroviral drugs”.
In this MSNBC report, the gamers describe the way in which they were able to work together cooperatively to solve a puzzle that has confounded scientists for more than a decade. And what’s so cool is that, while some of the most important progress in the game was made by those with biomedical academic backgrounds, the majority of active players playing with FoldIt did not have this kind of scientific background. Many of them were just average gamers like you and me.
The power of the cloud! I participated in one of these collective, distributed computing networks, at the time used to help map the galaxy by giving users access to a small chunk of the large puzzle to set their computers to work on. Multiplied by a few million people, even small changes can become enormous.
Of course, this is also what makes BotNet networks so damn powerful.