Folding: it’s detestable and boring, as any Gap employee can tell you. But it’s also a totally fun thing you can do in a video game! And today it’s particularly exciting because players of the online game Foldit have redesigned a protein, and their work is published in the science journal Nature Biotechnology.
It seems nobler than shooting people in the face, somehow. Granted, Foldit attracts a unique kind of gamer who enjoys obsessing over biological protein folding patterns. Proteins get their function from the way they are folded into coils like in the image above. When the amino acids in a protein interact, they create that coiled, three-dimensional structure. Scientists can manipulate the structure to make the protein more efficient. In Foldit, designs that create the most efficient proteins garner the highest scores.
University of Washington in Seattle scientists Zoran Popovic, director of the Center for Game Science, and biochemist David Baker developed Foldit (which is different from Folding@home, Stanford software that lets people donate their idle computer processing power to create a protein-folding supercomputer). By playing it, at-home gamers have redesigned a protein for the first time, and they did it better and faster than scientists who have trained their entire careers to build better proteins. Justin Siegel, a biophysicist in Baker’s group told Scientific American:
I worked for two years to make these enzymes better and I couldn’t do it. Foldit players were able to make a large jump in structural space and I still don’t fully understand how they did it.
Here’s how it works: Researchers send a series of puzzles to Foldit’s 240,000 registered users. The scientists sift through the results for the best designs and take those into the lab for real-life testing. They combed through 180,000 designs to get to the version of the protein published today. The paper details an enzyme that thanks to the crowdsourced redesign is 18-fold more active than the original version.
Now for the anticlimactic part: this particular enzyme doesn’t really have any practical uses. But the researchers say it’s a proof of concept, and future Foldit designs will be more useful. In fact, Baker has fed players a protein that blocks the flu virus that led to the 1918 pandemic—and their puzzle solving for this one could lead to an actual drug.
ComScore’s three-month report on mobile subscribers (ending in November) is out.
Apple did see its smartphone market share grow a bit, from 27.3% to 28.7% in the last three months. But Google’s Android platform is still crushing it with 46.9% of the smartphone market in the U.S.
Here’s the chart:
When it comes to hardware manufacturers, Samsung now has more than a quarter of the market in all mobile phones, including non-smartphones. Apple made a nice jump in the last three months, with the iPhone now accounting for 11.2% of the mobile phones in the U.S.
Here’s the manufacturer breakdown:
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With Halloween behind us, retailers are now full swing into the Holiday shopping season. And consumers aren’t too far behind. By the end of October, a little more than half of consumers surveyed said that they have begun their Holiday shopping. In fact, 1 out of 10 consumers have completed at least half of their expected Holiday shopping.
Toys and games, electronics, and gift cards were popular gift items to purchase last week. And while 1 in 3 consumers bought books the week end Oct 16, only 14 percent purchased books last week. Santa was in a part mood last week, as can be seen by the jump in event ticket purchases.
Overall spend increased, probably do to the increase in higher ticket value items. The average consumer spent $190 dollar online and $264 dollars in-stores on Holiday gift and items. At this point in the season, consumers are still favoring in-store purchasing.
And where are consumers spending all of those in-store dollars? Walmart, Best Buy, and Kohl’s were the most popular retailers to shop at last week. Macy’s saw a large jump in foot traffic, probably due to their Party & Holiday Home sale.
Compete Holiday Insights™ will be your source for tracking consumers’ online and offline holiday shopping, so stay tuned for more posts like this in the coming weeks.
Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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