If you’re a gamer and you’ve ever had a hankering to be on the cutting edge of science, but want to skip all the boring degree part, scientists at the University of Washington are looking for you.
In Foldit, the screen is filled with many-colored, geometric snakes. Players go through an introductory level to learn the rules, which are basically how protein shapes move into 3-D shapes. And that’s the nub of it – solving problems in 3-D. The aim is to discover those who are natural prodigies at protein folding.
The game has gone through testing before its public release. Big as its goals already are – even with all the computers in the world, it would take centuries to understand all the possible folded shapes of proteins – Foldit will expand this fall to try and create new proteins, and eventually to try and find a cure for malaria or HIV. The best protein designs will be synthesized in the lab, and those who score high on Foldit will also receive credit.