Scientists at the University of Washington had struggled for more than a decade to discover the structure of a protein that helps the human immunodeficiency virus multiply. Understanding its shape could aid them in developing drugs to attack the virus, but the scientists had been unable to decipher it. So they turned to colleagues who had developed Foldit, an online game that challenges players to rearrange proteins into their lowest-energy form, the form they would most likely take in nature. Adrien Treuille, an assistant professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, and one of the creators of Foldit, says the game is an example of a rather startling insight. In some types of crowdsourcing, computers perform the preliminary work and then people are asked to refine it. Many crowdsourcing projects rely on humans' vastly superior image-processing capabilities.
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