Gamers Solve Molecular Puzzle

Image by RozuChu, all rights reserved

Image by RozuChu on Flickr (CC)

In a powerful display of the power of play and games applied to problem solving, a group of gamers have solved a previously unsolvable molecular structure concerning AIDS that had baffled scientists for years. When faced with difficulty, the research team decided to take a new approach that has been gaining traction: citizen science, in which scientists and teams of scientists enlist the aid of everyday people to further advance the scientific cause.

The amazing feat was accomplished in ten days.

In the article, Seth Cooper, a scientist who is the lead designer of the game, dubbed Foldit, stated that “Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of humans and computers.” Later in the article, Zoran Popovic, director of the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science stated that “We are currently applying the same approach to change the way math and science are taught in school.”

The potential that games bring in not only math and science, but in the humanities and language education as well, is overwhelming. I feel this discovery provides evidence towards the positive impact games can have in education. Too often people lump multimillion dollar games, such as the Call of Duty series, with games such as Foldit, under one mighty umbrella. Without the distinction between the two being made, they casually blame games for societal ills and deem them a “waste of time.” Hopefully, this will draw a distinction between computer games for entertainment purposes and computer games designed for education and scientific inquiry.

Foldit is designed by the University of Washington, and is available to play on Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux operating systems. More information about the project can be found on the Foldit About page.

One comment on “Gamers Solve Molecular Puzzle

  1. I remember you talking about this not too long ago–interesting stuff. From an educational standpoint this can open a lot of doors for people…especially kinetic learners who process things better by interacting and engaging in hands-on activities. Nice write-up, Adam 🙂

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