Online Puzzles And – Science?

Online jigsaw puzzles, word puzzles, and other kinds of puzzles provide hours of entertainment for millions of people every day. In fact, playing online games is said to keep the mind sharp, and has enlarged social networks of many. But, can online puzzles benefit science? According to Dara Mohammadi at The Observer, the answer is “YES”! Here are some amazing ways that playing games online can actually produce benefits for mankind.

Online Puzzle Game: Foldit

Were you one of the many people playing Foldit a couple of years ago? If so, you contributed to the scientific research being conducted on AIDS. For thirteen years, scientists had been trying to solve a problem with protein folding that caused a disease similar to AIDS in monkeys. However, 3 weeks after making the game Foldit available online, the problem was solved.

According to Scientific American, scientists and programmers at Foldit are, to this day, providing various puzzles to the public. Scientists making presentations for funding to congressional subcommittees have even referred to the benefits of online gaming in the R&D of scientific problems. Currently, Foldit has Puzzle 935 online.

Online Astronomy Game: Planet Hunters

While not a puzzle, per se, Planet Hunters is a popular game that invites players to track the light emissions of planets. These light emissions are measured every 30 minutes, and have led to the discovery of over 40 planets that – get this – COULD SUPPORT LIFE!

Online Puzzles and Patterns

It seems that the human brain is hardwired to study, perceive, analyze, and re-order patterns. In fact, this is one thing that the human brain does far better than a computer. The recognition of elements of the human face, for example, is still a challenge for computers, yet children can memorize hundreds of faces in a short period of time. This actually gives humans the advantage in many puzzle-type scientific challenges. Sure, computers can calculate mathematical equations much faster than the human brain, but recognizing the characteristics of your face – or of a particular star – is much harder.

Candy Crush and Genetics

If you enjoyed high school biology (and who didn’t?) and found genetics class to be particularly interesting, you can participate in a game of genetic analysis similar to Candy Crush. Fraxinus is a game available online that is constructed just like Candy Crush, except you are trying to line up nucleotides from the genetic data of a fungus that is killing trees. There is a similar game in the works for the genetic code that causes Alzheimer’s.


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