Among the multilegged creatures in Robert Lang’s airy studio in Alamo, California, are a shimmering-blue long-horned beetle, a slinky, dun-colored centipede, a praying mantis with front legs held aloft, a plump cicada, a scorpion and a black horsefly.
So realistic that some people threaten to stomp on them, these paper models, virtually unfoldable 20 years ago, represent a new frontier in origami. No longer limited to traditional birds and boats, origami—the art of paper folding—is evolving artistically and technologically, thanks to a small but growing number of mathematicians and scientists around the world, including Lang. What’s more, this group believes the ancient art holds elegant solutions to problems in fields as diverse as automobile safety, space science, architecture, robotics, manufacturing and medicine.
In 2008, University of Washington scientists released the game FOLDIT hoping a sort of critical mass of gamers would mess around with proteins and, in the process, uncover some of their intrigue
Well, now Foldit is officially more than just a neat idea.
In a matter of 10 days, gamers were able to do what biochemists have been trying to do for a decade: decipher the structure of a protein called retroviral protease, an enzyme that is key to the way HIV multiplies. Being able to see how this protein builds will likely help scientists develop drugs to halt that growth.
“Following the failure of a wide range of attempts to solve the crystal structure of M-PMV retroviral protease by molecular replacement, we challenged players of the protein folding game Foldit to produce accurate models of the protein,” the researchers report this week in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. “Remarkably, Foldit players were able to generate models of sufficient quality for successful molecular replacement and subsequent structure determination. The refined structure provides new insights for the design of antiretroviral drugs.”
It’s time to TEACH FORWARD into the Future, not back to preserve some “golden memory” of the past. Most of what we currently teach is based on “history” not new thinking…. 2016 is the start of the change….one mind at a time.