“Whoa, what is that?” says my coworker, Dan, looking at the brightly colored, squiggly structure on my computer screen I’m flipping and tugging at with clicks of my mouse.
“It’s a protein. I’m playing Foldit,” I reply, clicking and dragging on a blue sidechain to eliminate the red spiky “clash” ball between it and another sidechain and watching my score jump. I explain how it’s a video game where the time you spend playing can actually help advance scientific discovery.
“That’s so cool. Can you send me the link?” he says. And, within five minutes, another Foldit download completes and another layperson researcher has logged in, ready to contribute to cures for cancer or Alzheimer’s or HIV just by playing a video game. Continue reading