EteRNA challenges you to make real scientific breakthroughs

A new online PC game called EteRNA is using the public's puzzle-solving prowess to solve complex, real-life biological problems. And while it may not sound as exciting as space marines and angry birds, scoring high on ETeRNA could very well lead to the advancement of all mankind.

And that's totally worth at least 300 achievement points, right?

Developed by Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University researchers, EteRNA tasks players with mixing and matching the basic building blocks of ribonucleic acid (RNA) to design virtual RNA molecules that are stable enough to be reproduced in real world labs. The rules of doing so simple, but the complexities of 'folding' RNA (i.e making a molecule that keeps its shape) soon become apparent when players are challenged with creating real life scenarios.

Without a doubt, the most interesting thing going for EteRNA is that its players have the opportunity to make real-world breakthroughs. Those who are able to come up with the best designs get the honor of seeing their virtual work recreated by scientists who may then be able to use their designs in the development of vital vaccines, new biological technologies and other sciency-sounding innovations.

“What EteRNA does is open up this whole scientific cycle to the public, and allows them to propose experiments, see the results, and then propose more experiments,” explains Adrien Treuille, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Cargnegie Mellon. “Just like basketball where you score by throwing a ball through a hoop, in EteRNA you score if the RNA you design folds properly in the lab.”

EteRNA may sound boring as hell on paper, but the game is surprisingly fun. The actual science of folding RNA is well explained in the opening tutorial, and the challenges are presented with the kind of flair and gamey conventions that make it feel more like a PSN or XBLA puzzle game than a heady science project.

You too can take a crack at changing the world by heading over to the EterNA game website.

Jan 12, 2011

[Source: Science Daily]

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