A new browser-based puzzle game for the PC lets gamers make genuine scientific breakthroughs to solve complex, real-world biological problems.
Not only that, it's actually a hell of a lot of fun.
The Online PC game EteRNA uses puzzle-solving gameplay to encourage players to solve complex scientific mysteries.
Men in white coats
ETeRNA has been developed by Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University researchers, and asks players to mix and match the basic building blocks of ribonucleic acid (RNA) in order to design virtual RNA molecules stable enough to be reproduced in a lab, staffed with men in white coats and whatnot.
The genuine fun of the gameplay comes from trying to create complex strands of 'folding' RNA – in order to create a molecule that keeps its shape.
The winning designs in the game will be recreated by those same men in white coats in real-world labs, in order to develop medical vaccines and new biological technologies.
Opening up science
"What EteRNA does is open up this whole scientific cycle to the public, and allows them to propose experiments, see the results, and then propose more experiments," say Adrien Treuille, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Cargnegie Mellon.
"Just like basketball where you score by throwing a ball through a hoop, in EteRNA you score if the RNA you design folds properly in the lab."
Jeehyung Lee, a computer science Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon involved in developing the game, added: "Nature confounds even our best computer models.
"We knew that if we were to truly tap the wisdom of crowds, our game would have to expose players to every aspect of the scientific process: design, yes, but also experimentation, analysis of results and incorporation of those results into future designs."
If you fancy advancing the cause of medical science by playing a fun puzzle game, and you have some time to kill (a lot of time, as this is quite more-ish) then you can head over to the EterNA game site.
Via Science Daily