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Monday, September 19, 2011

Scientific Computation: Best Game, Ever!

FolditImage via Wikipedia
Related source » U.S. Gamers Crack Puzzle In AIDS Research That Stumped Scientists For Years | Fox News: 'via Blog this' [This related source is recommended in its entirety.]

“In just three weeks, online gamers deciphered the structure of a retrovirus protein that has stumped scientists for over a decade, and a study out Sunday says their breakthrough opens doors for a new AIDS drug design. […] Looking for a solution, researchers at the University of Washington turned to Foldit, a program created by the university a few years ago that transforms problems of science into competitive computer games, and challenged players to use their three-dimensional problem-solving skills to build accurate models of the protein. With[in] days, the gamers generated models good enough for the researchers to refine into an accurate portrayal of the enzyme's structure. What's more, the scientists identified parts of the molecule that are likely targets for drugs to block the enzyme.”
— Published September 19, 2011 (

What a creative approach towards solving one of the great problems that has plagued humanity for more than three decades! As David Deutsch explains in his wonderful new book:
“Indeed, the fall of tyranny is never enough. The sustained creation of knowledge depends also on the presence of certain kinds of idea, particularly optimism, and an associated tradition of criticism. There would have to be social and political institutions that incorporated and protected such traditions: a society in which some degree of dissent and deviation from the norm was tolerated, and whose educational practices did not entirely extinguish creativity. None of that is trivially achieved. Western civilization is the current consequence of achieving it […]”
— David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
All doomsday predictions neglect to account properly for unforeseen solutions, solutions that do not violate the laws of physics. People are universal explainers. Progress always brings with it new problems, but this is not a rational reason for choosing stasis. Every static society in history (including prehistory) has been doomed by stasis-mandated ignorance. So-called "peak oil" alarms calling for some sort of rationing strategy, for example, are nothing more than submission to stasis, eventual decline, and ultimate disaster.

As Deutsch summarizes at the close of his book:
“Many people have an aversion to infinity of various kinds. But there are some things that we do not have a choice about. There is only one way of thinking that is capable of making progress, or of surviving in the long run, and that is the way of seeking good explanations through creativity and criticism. What lies ahead of us is in any case infinity. All we can choose is whether it is an infinity of ignorance or of knowledge, wrong or right, death or life.”
— David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
My own choices are knowledge, right, and life. Every rational person should make those choices. I can not think of a better explanation for that elusive meaning of life itself.

Post 1,706 Scientific Computation: Best Game, Ever!

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