Online gamers crack AIDS enzyme puzzlefrom: http://news.yahoo.com/online-gamers-crack-aids-enzyme-puzzle-175427367.html
I found this article an interesting parallel to software testing and soft project management.
Online gamers have achieved a feat beyond the realm of Second Life or Dungeons and Dragons: they have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had thwarted scientists for a decade.
This was a difficult problem that had frustrated smart scientists.
The exploit is published on Sunday in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, where -- exceptionally in scientific publishing -- both gamers and researchers are honoured as co-authors.
Their target was a monomeric protease enzyme, a cutting agent in the complex molecular tailoring of retroviruses, a family that includes HIV.
Figuring out the structure of proteins is vital for understanding the causes of many diseases and developing drugs to block them.
So solving this problem was meaningful.
But a microscope gives only a flat image of what to the outsider looks like a plate of one-dimensional scrunched-up spaghetti. Pharmacologists, though, need a 3-D picture that "unfolds" the molecule and rotates it in order to reveal potential targets for drugs.
This is where Foldit comes in.
Developed in 2008 by the University of Washington, it is a fun-for-purpose video game in which gamers, divided into competing groups, compete to unfold chains of amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins -- using a set of online tools.
Here is the link to the game. http://fold.it/
This site could be a potential application for weekend testing.
To the astonishment of the scientists, the gamers produced an accurate model of the enzyme in just three weeks.
Astonished? Really? Because they were not recognized and certified as experts in this field by scientists?
Cracking the enzyme "provides new insights for the design of antiretroviral drugs," says the study, referring to the lifeline medication against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
It is believed to be the first time that gamers have resolved a long-standing scientific problem.
What a nice quote: "We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed." Jerry Weinberg introduced me to the MOIJ model."We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed," Firas Khatib of the university's biochemistry lab said in a press release.
It seems to me Firas did a "big jiggle" and changed the motivation, organization, and information around the problem.
"The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems."
To paraphrase: "The ingenuity of people is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of problems." I would love to hear a debrief of this project.
The folded protein problem was the easy problem. The hard problem is the shaping, enabling, and nurturing individuals and groups to be more effective problem solvers.
One of Foldit's creators, Seth Cooper, explained why gamers had succeeded where computers had failed.
"People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at," he said.
Score +2 for the humans.
+1 for our collective intuition and spatial reasoning skills.
+1 for project management choosing to stop ineffectively hammering on the problem with automated methods - and try something different.
What I want to know is, "Why did it take ten years to jiggle the industry to try something different? And is that longer or shorter than we should have expected?"
"Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week's paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before."
Tools should create a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans; striving to extend and magnify the capabilities of humans while remaining a servant to informed human judgement and ethics. If only all our software testing tools actualized this ideal.
What other 'three-week-technical-solutions' are being blocked by our unrecognized project management problems?
What unsolvable technical problem do you have that might get solved by a big jiggle?