Human brains can be better at visual-pattern recognition than even the best computers. And that's the idea behind a fun new puzzle game with the not-so-fun name Phylo: A Human Computing Framework for Comparative Genomics (Phylo for short). It lets players race against time to match moving blocks into like patterns that actually give scientists insight into genetic code.
Pieces in the game, created by bioinformaticians at Canada's McGill University and officially launched yesterday, represent parts of the human genome. By solving each puzzle, a person is actually helping create multiple sequence alignments, which are arrangements of sequences of DNA, RNA, or protein that identify regions of similarity. The idea is that biologists can then gather genetic data about the strands that the puzzles represent to find genetic links between species.
The puzzles get harder as the game goes on, making for good replay. People play against the computer, as well as others, to get the best possible score on each puzzle, with scores depending on how the colored shapes are arranged. There are no concrete prizes, but it's still a fun and challenging way to get bragging rights (the only gripe I had while playing is that the orange and green blocks can be confusing for those of us who are color blind). … Read more