Online gamers have solved the protein structure of AIDS, doing in 3 weeks what scientists had been trying to accomplish for ten years, according to the Cambridge BlueSci online magazine. That brings scientists a step closer to being able to design an attack vector for the virus and creating a vaccine and cure.
They pulled this off using an online multiplayer game called Foldit, where they attempt to manipulate 3D images of proteins to produce the highest scoring (lowest energy) structure. You are scored by how well you compact the protein, get rid of residues, and avoid spatial clashes. When you complete a puzzle you get a new puzzle as your reward. Human pattern analysis skill sets have yet to be programed into computers (although some projects for that are at the research stage), so this melding of the best skills from humans and computers has a world of potential for solving all kind of medical and organic chemistry problems, which could end up saving a lot of lives. Plus winning a good game is always fun; if you want to play yourself got to the Center for Game Science and download a free copy of the game.