PlayStation Network’s Folding@Home service is undoubtedly cool, but a little browser-based puzzle game called EteRNA just blew it out – of – the – water. Not only is it an actual game instead of an application which bricks your console for upwards of an hour, it also offers you the genuine opportunity to make an important scientific breakthrough and change the world.
This shit is bananas.
According to Science Daily, EteRNA players perform real scientific research by designing puzzle solutions. The more accurately the solution emulates physically possible configurations, the higher the score.
Top-scoring designs will be lifted from the virtual world of the game and copied in the laboratory to test current theories of protein folding; your lunch break diversion could be the basis of solving some of the most mysterious secrets of biology.
“We want to understand how RNA folds in a test tube and eventually in viruses and living cells,” said Standford’s Rhiju Das, assistant professor of biochemistry.
“These experiments are the first-line strategy for validating a design and a crucial part of the scientific method,” he added. “EteRNA (is) similar to what goes on in my lab on a daily basis: you make a prediction, do an experiment, make adjustments and start again.”
Jointly developed by research teams at Carnegie Mellon and Stanford Universities, EteRNA is free, playable in your browser, and head-scratchingly compelling. Check it out for yourself here.