In a feat reminiscent of the TV Series Stargate Universe where scientists hide an alien puzzle they had not been able to decipher into an online game and then wait for a gamer to solve the puzzle, real life online gamers have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had thwarted scientists for a decade.
Foldit is a 3D video game that was developed in 2008 by the University of Washington and is played by competing players unfolding chains of amino acids to help figure out the structure of proteins. The online gamers produced an accurate 3D model of the enzyme in only three weeks.
This is the first time that gamers have resolved a long-standing scientific problem, bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The exploit is published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, and both the online gamers and researchers are listed as co-authors.
Download the paper here.