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Medicine Idle

Gamers Piece Together Retrovirus Enzyme Structure 149

An anonymous reader writes "Gamers have solved the structure of a retrovirus enzyme whose configuration had stumped scientists for more than a decade. The gamers achieved their discovery by playing Foldit, an online game that allows players to collaborate and compete in predicting the structure of protein molecules. After scientists repeatedly failed to piece together the structure of a protein-cutting enzyme from an AIDS-like virus, they called in the Foldit players. The scientists challenged the gamers to produce an accurate model of the enzyme. They did it in only three weeks."
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Gamers Piece Together Retrovirus Enzyme Structure

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  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Sunday September 18, 2011 @10:55PM (#37437536) Homepage Journal

    There is no substitute for human ingenuity, which is captured by crowd sourcing. Kudos to whoever managed to make folding protein structures entertaining enough to capture the interest of enough people to make it feasible. :)

  • Re:Avoid SGC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jafafa Hots ( 580169 ) on Sunday September 18, 2011 @11:10PM (#37437588) Homepage Journal

    What scares me is that a character from a freaking TV show has a far better, more fleshed out Wikipedia article than many (most?) prominent scientists. Not to mention other worthwhile people.

  • Re:Avoid SGC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Sunday September 18, 2011 @11:52PM (#37437762)
    Everything that those scientists or their contemporaries might post to Wikipedia would be deleted because it would be first-hand knowledge. How dare someone who actually *knows* the people in question try to edit the bios; they're not Wikipedia insiders!
  • Re:Avoid SGC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Monday September 19, 2011 @12:31AM (#37437886) Homepage

    Which isn't really a problem, in my opinion.

    Wikipedia isn't limited by space and volunteer driven. If somebody currently wants to write about Pokemon, then they will try to write about Pokemon. If you insist on interferring with that attempt, then you're likely to seriously cause a bad impression to somebody who's trying to make a honest, if not very important contribution.

    As a result, they get fed up and leave, maybe for Bulbapedia, instead of sticking around, and maybe writing on something a bit more important next time. After all, Wikipedia isn't a job, and you can't command people like that there.

    The mentality of that some not very important articles are too long is IMO a big problem. Because there has to be something silly and harmless to get a new contributor started. Pokemon is probably one of the best first starting subjects, because it's easy to contribute on it: there's lots of info that can be contributed, and it's well documented outside on WP.

    In comparison starting from trying to contribute on the page of Pasteur will be like walking into a battlefield. You'll quickly need to start discussing medical literature, and that's not really easy for most people. Somebody with a real interest might get into that, but most likely only after getting practice on something else, just like coders don't get started by contributing to the Linux kernel.

    IMO that's why Wikipedia is losing contributors. If you actively reject attempts to contribute in the easiest places, then smack people in the face with huge amounts of WP: regulation in other places, then very few people are going to be willing to stick around.

  • Re:Avoid SGC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Monday September 19, 2011 @03:10AM (#37438466)


    1- the lives of real people, including scientists, are private, whereas that of a fictional character are all open to anybody to summarize, analyze and discuss
    2- the achievements of real people are sometimes controversial. Who could say with certainty that Cooley and Tukey invented the FFT, while it was used by Gauss in his astronomy work to speed up his calculation, but thought it unimportant enough to report compared to his number theory work? That itself may be controversial. Science is littered with misappropriated credit. For instance George Dantzig did not invent the first solution the the LP problem. Fourier knew about it ; people in the Soviet Union were using it before WWII. Hence writing about real people, particularly scientists, is hard.
    3- There are far far far fewer people interested in the life of non-glamorous people than even minor fictional characters.
    4- Who cares? People write about what they want in wikipedia. Someone writing on stargate does not prevent someone else writing on Paul Dirac.

  • Re:Avoid SGC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by seanvaandering ( 604658 ) <[sean.vaandering] [at] []> on Monday September 19, 2011 @04:11AM (#37438628)
    Exactly.... and that's why after modifying and cleaning up hundred upon hundreds of pages, only to see my revisions reversed by a bot no less, is why I stopped contributing years ago to Wikipedia. Now my time is spent playing mindless games on Facebook to pass the time - oh well. The "thou shalt" attitude doesn't help either. Admins need to learn to be subservient and teach rather than dictate.

    Oh well, clearly they are doing just fine without me - won't even miss it if they disappeared tommorow. Seriously.
  • Re:Avoid SGC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nirvelli ( 851945 ) on Monday September 19, 2011 @04:32AM (#37438692)
    Clearly you missed out on an entire decade of First-Person-Shooter games.
  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Monday September 19, 2011 @06:16AM (#37438994)

    Wow, "quit your whining". You think they should treat their users any way they please because they are trying to cure Aids. I'm surprised that you didn't throw in a "think of the children" line too

    My point isn't about "not offending trovingslosh", but rather about developers who set up feedback systems but can't be bothered to even give a courtesy response when sincere suggestions, even pleas, are made. If I had received even a simple "yea, we will add a choice to disable the "music" when we can get to it, I would have tried to wait it out, or at least checked occasionally to see if they got around to making the fix and I could go back to folding without the torture. I should mention that I did stick it out for over a month, maybe three, with less use and eventually just checking in to see if things were fixed, before I decided that what should have been a very simple UI change wasn't likely to happen. There were many other changes and updates in that time. So you see it as a waste of their time to bother to respond to the feedback system that they created. I see it as a waste of volunteer manpower to ignore the feedback that they solicited, and arrogance on the part of the developers to think that everyone should have to listen to the developer's own choice of "music" when freely giving their time to a scientific application that really had no good reason to insist on playing music in the first place. I doubt very much if I'm the only one that was offended and driven away, both by the sound and by the apathy of the developers for the input of the volunteer users contributing their time.

    Thanks, you've helped me make up my mind. I wasn't thrilled about restarting and trying to work up in rank past a quarter million users, but I realize now that it isn't just that, it's having volunteered my time and work for a group that didn't have the common courtesy to respond to very valid feedback. I feel good now about deciding not to go back.

Nothing is finished until the paperwork is done.