I'll admit it. Part of being a bit of political junkie is listening to CBC radio from time to time [all non-Canadian readers can google it to bring you up to speed]. And on one of the programs that I was listening to awhile back, they were discussing a program called "Fold it" which is the feature of today's Fresh Look Fridays post.
Fold it is basically a computer game that encourages players to fold proteins in infinite numbers of ways to score points. The creators of fold it then take these new structures and apply them to various research projects, hoping that one of them will be a brand new protein that could help prevent or treat diseases such as HIV, Alzheimer's and Cancer.
What I love about this site/download is that it not only is contributing important findings for science, but it also highlights certain principles that we, as educators, often know, but don't always model:
1. 2 heads are nearly always better than 1
2. Thinking outside the box is necessary for advancements in many areas.
3. If you continue doing what was always done, you'll get the same results.
4. There's a lot of value in "playing" at work.
5. Sometimes being an expert on a subject can actually be a hinderance to your work. Sort of a twist on the whole "can't see the forest for the trees" concept. On the CBC radio program where I initally heard about Fold it, the interviewee was saying that some of their top "players" are a mechanic, a classical pianist and an engineer -- all people with little to no background in biology.
I have witnessed some pretty amazing problem solving happen with small groups of students. I can only imagine what might happen if you pop this program up on your SMART Board and let a small group work on folding a new protein. Who knows? They could be making a very valuable contribution to research!