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Behind the Scenes of Foldit, Pioneering Science Gamification

Katie L. Burke

Proteins are involved in how our bodies develop and fight disease as well as how we behave and 2012-11SciObsBurkeFC.jpgClick to Enlarge Imagehow we sense the world around us. Genes are instructions for making proteins, each of which is made up of some combination of building-block molecules called amino acids. Proteins can be hundreds of amino acids long, so they are complex and difficult to study. Although protein sequencing to find out the order of the amino acids in a particular protein is pretty easy for a biochemist, it is not simple for a biochemist to figure out all the possible shapes those amino acids can fold into. Foldit is a popular online citizen-science game, in which players are scored on the structure of proteins that they’ve folded. In Foldit puzzles, for example, players are rewarded for solving clashes and voids, places where the protein is not consistent with known biochemical patterns.

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PODCAST & VIDEO: Engineering Around Extreme Events

Extreme events, such as super floods and hurricanes, are becoming more common, so civil engineers are trying to adapt civil infrastructure such as bridges to these unpredictable and sometimes devastating meteorological events. Engineer Ana Barros discusses how engineering can prepare us for extreme weather events, but also how changing climate and population conditions can affect the ability of infrastructure to hold up over time.

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