If You Like Farmville and Genetic Research, Good News

That's right. You can now use your gaming skills in a productive way as opposed to simply rotting your brain.

A new game launched this week is allowing players to contribute to genetic research. Bioinformaticians--those who combine science, technology, and information sciences—worked together to produce the game at McGill University in Montreal. The game, called Phylo, works like this:

You have different colored-squares that represent different letters of genetic code. The object is to arrange two different sequences of DNA, RNA, or protein while simultaneously avoiding mutations. Don’t worry, it sounds harder that it is, we think.

You’ll feel good knowing that all the data you help contribute to Phylo will be stored on the University of California’s genome browser, where the data will be accessible to researchers working in the field. That sure as heck beats the Farmville alternative, which is unlocking a barn door or something.

You may be wondering why these bioinformaticians have bothered to rely on the public’s game playing skills to accomplish the gathering of mass amounts of data as opposed to enlisting a supercomputer. It turns out that the old human brain can still be looked at as more valuable than a computer in some cases, and this is one of them.

“There are some calculations that the human brain does more efficiently than any computer can, such as recognizing a face,” says lead researcher Jérôme Waldispuhl of the School of Computer Science at McGill University. So yeah -- take that, computers. On the other hand, you need a computer to play...

More below.

Around the Web

Play Flash Game Phylo, Help Trace Genetic Disease [Wired]

Phylos, a game that helps map genetic code [CNET]

Gaming Takes a Genetic Twist [Bright Side of News]

Phylogenetics for Facebook? [Bio-IT World]

Play Phylo