[Taxacom] Phylogenetic Game

Jim Croft jim.croft at gmail.com
Sat Dec 11 05:56:48 CST 2010

Neither do taxonomists, nor TaxaCom  ;)


On Saturday, December 11, 2010, Peter Stevens <peter.stevens at mobot.org> wrote:
> Note that "Players don't need to understand (or even care about)
> phylogenetics."
> P.
> Subject: Phylogenetics game
> December 2, 2010 | A pattern-matching puzzle created by
> bioinformaticians at McGill University lets players sort genetic
> code. The game, called Phylo, takes advantage of the human brain's
> efficiency at recognizing and sorting patterns to tackle multiple
> sequence alignments.
> Aligning genetic sequences is traditionally done computationally, but
> what is a huge computational problem, is a bit easier for the human
> brain. “There are some calculations that the human brain does more
> efficiently than any computer can, such as recognizing a face,”
> explained lead researcher Jérôme Waldispuhl of the School of Computer
> Science in a McGill press release. “Recognizing and sorting the
> patterns in the human genetic code falls in that category."
> Players don't start from scratch, but instead refine data that has
> already been aligned. "By taking data which has already been aligned
> by a heuristic algorithm, we allow the user to optimize where the
> algorithm may have failed," the game creators explain on the site.
> All alignments were made available through UCSC Genome Browser and
> contain sections of human DNA which have been speculated to be linked
> to various genetic disorders, such as breast cancer. Every alignment
> is received, analyzed, and stored in a database, where it will
> eventually be re-introduced back into the global alignment as an
> optimization. Players can choose which disease they'd like to work
> on, or be assigned to a random level.
> Players don't need to understand (or even care about) phylogenetics
> though. Rather than strings of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs, players align four
> colored squares on a grid. Each row of colors represents a sequence
> from a certain species. Sequences can be moved horizontally and
> spaced out, but not rearranged or deleted. The goal is to line up
> columns of colors that represent alignments between the two or more
> sequences. There will, of course, be gaps in sequences and spots
> where the two rows don't match. The goal is to find the best tradeoff
> between aligning color and creating gaps. Players try to manually
> find the best alignment and beat the computer's original alignment
> score. The first level aligns two sequences, and sequences are added
> as players advance.
> Researchers released the game on Monday after testing. They hope the
> create a Facebook, iPhone, and Android application versions of the
> game. Until then, Phylo can be played at http://phylo.cs.mcgill.ca
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Jim Croft ~ jim.croft at gmail.com ~ +61-2-62509499 ~
'A civilized society is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point
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 - Robert Frost, poet (1874-1963)

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