Gamers as scientists?

This – from the Guardian – stopped me in my tracks:

How online gamers are solving science’s biggest problems

A new generation of online games don’t just provide entertainment – they help scientists solve puzzles involving genes, conservation and the universe

Really?

The really wicked part of me wanted to know if these games could help scientists solve puzzles involving the genetic tendency for liberal newspaper journalists to develop blind spots – like those that develop when it comes to seeing Israel in a fair and reasonable light. But, hey, you cannot have everything.

The piece begins as follows:

For all their virtual accomplishments, gamers aren’t feted for their real-world usefulness. But that perception might be about to change, thanks to a new wave of games that let players with little or no scientific knowledge tackle some of science’s biggest problems. And gamers are already proving their worth.

In 2011, people playing Foldit, an online puzzle game about protein folding, resolved the structure of an enzyme that causes an Aids-like disease in monkeys. Researchers had been working on the problem for 13 years. The gamers solved it in three weeks.

A year later, people playing an astronomy game called Planet Hunters found a curious planet with four stars in its system, and to date, they’ve discovered 40 planets that could potentially support life, all of which had been previously missed by professional astronomers.

On paper, gamers and scientists make a bizarre union. But…

Fascinating. No doubt, some of this is overblown, exaggerated, and slanted to give a particular message. But at the core, it remains – at least to me – fascinating. Read it all, here.

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