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Georgia State University

Can Online Games Solve Science Questions?

Started as an academic collaboration of computer scientists and biological scientists, these multiplayer social online games use crowdsourcing solutions for scientifc problems. These games are pioneering a completely new way to do science by helping researchers crack the hidden secrets of protein folding and will push us that much closer to new antibiotics, cancer treatment, and biofuels.  Whether you are a gamer, scientist, or computer scientist you can be a part of the global laboratory!

Two examples of these games are:

Foldit: Players use the cursor to fold amino acid chains to bend the protein into its optimum shape for protein design. The only rules are based on physics—opposite charges attract, atomic bonds have limited angles of rotation, and the parts of the molecule that stick to water tend to point outward. The closer your model’s properties adhere to those rules, the more points you get.

EteRNA: Players participate in creating the first large-scale library of synthetic RNA designs.  Efforts help reveal new principles for designing RNA-based switches and nanomachines — new systems for seeking and eventually controlling living cells and disease-causing viruses.

To learn more about multiplayer social games check out these recent publications, available in full-text through the GSU Library:

Kearns, M. (2012). Experiments in Social Computation. Communications Of The ACM, 55(10), 56-67.

Gaining Wisdom from Crowds. (2012). Communications of the ACM, 55(3), 13-15.

Cooper, S., Khatib, F., Treuille, A., Barbero, J., Lee, J., Beenen, M., & … Popović, Z. (2010). Predicting protein structures with a multiplayer online game. Nature, 466(7307), 756-760.