Here’s one instance when man triumphs over the visually-impaired machine. The online game Phylo lets gamers solve the multiple sequence alignment (MSA) problem by finding the best possible DNA sequence match between up to eight species at a time — and, amazingly, beating out a computer, according to a study reported in the journal PLoS One.
“We have shown that humans’ game-playing visual talents can do some things better than a computer algorithm,” the study’s lead author Jérôme Waldispühl, a computational biologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said in Nature.com.
If a player’s score beats the MULTIZ, a computer alignment program hosted by the University of California, Santa Cruz, their scores will be displayed in the game’s hall of fame. To play, gamers shift the sequences one block at a time to find alignments before time runs out. Players who align similar sequences before their time is up, get their sequences entered into Phylo’s database.
So far, Phylo has 12,252 registered users and almost 3,000 regular players. But it does take some biology know-how to play the game. So far, gamers have come up with about “350,000 solutions to various MSA problems, beating the accuracy of alignments from MULTIZ in roughly 70% of the sequences they manipulated,” notes the article.
There are many fascinating innovations for decoding and studying DNA. Just last month scientists unveiled a biological computer that could extract DNA from a chip. The biological computer acts like computer software to extract images.
This isn’t the first time gamers have played a role in helping scientists find answers and solutions to complex problems. Last year online gamers helped to discover an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had been a mystery for years.
Have you, by chance, played Phylo or any other biology-based games? Tell us about your experience in the comments.
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