Online Gamers Help Scientists with AIDS Puzzle

by on March 9th, 2015
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I just watched a really weird little movie about gaming in the future. We had Monopoly and Scrabble, but today’s kids can play out all kinds of fantasies and violence right there on the computer. But is playing “World of Warcraft” any more violent than blowing up plastic soldiers with lighter fluid like we used to do?

Anyway, the movie was about a not-to-distant future where every human had a socket installed in his lower back where you could plug the latest game into. Of course, things go horribly wrong and the players of a new game get stuck in the machine, sort of like in “The Matrix.”

Some scientists say that interactions between man and machine may be the next great (or not so great) thing. To a certain extent it’s already happening with robotic arms and legs that can be moved with just a thought. In the future you might be able to send someone an email just by looking at your computer and thinking about what you want to say. That new Apple that you just bought will be all in your mind.

A friend of mine is a serious gamer. Sometimes I think that he spends more time in the virtual world than he does with his wife. Maybe that’s lucky for one of them, I don’t know. He is also a serious programmer and virus writer. Unless you are really young, most gamers know a lot about computers.

Each year these “gamer geeks” are offered the chance to make some serious cash by the computer software companies by writing a virus and attempting to bypass the company’s virus protection systems. A select few that beat the system are offered a lucrative job writing anti-virus software by the company.

Now it seems like a few gamers may be working on a project that is no game. They are working on a cure for HIV/AIDS. According to Medical News Today:

“In what might be a significant breakthrough in HIV/AIDS research, online gamers playing a game called Foldit have cracked a key protein structure problem that has had scientists scratching their heads for years.” You can read all about it (when you take a break from your game) on your computer in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology .

The gamers were invited to build models of a protein that is essential in the reproduction of the AIDS virus. By constructing 3D models of the protein molecules online, the gamers may help the scientists to develop a new, more effective drug that may help in the battle against HIV?AIDS.

In the past, some medical and technological breakthroughs were discovered by scientists working in their garage laboratories. In the future, it might just be by some nerdy kid sitting in front of his computer munching on potato chips and drinking soda.


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