The Science Behind Foldit − Clearer explanation for people without a science background

Case number:699969-2002112
Opened by:Danquebec
Opened on:Saturday, February 27, 2016 - 23:08
Last modified:Monday, February 29, 2016 - 17:30


My problem might seem mundane, but I think I might not be alone to have been confused when reading the intro, “The Science Behind Foldit”. I am without a science background, and am in fact quite ignorant about biology. I started reading the intro and an apparent contradiction confused me:

First it says,
“Every kind of protein folds up into a very specific shape -- the same shape every time. Most proteins do this all by themselves, although some need extra help to fold into the right shape. The unique shape of a particular protein is the most stable state it can adopt.”

And later it says,
“The number of different ways even a small protein can fold is astronomical because there are so many degrees of freedom.”

Do you see how this could be confusing?

Thanks to the explanations of more knowledgeable people, I could understand what is meant exactly.

To understand where my confusion arose from, you need to know that I had no idea how a scientist “discovers” a protein. At this point, I still didn’t understand why this game exists. Maybe the intro would be clearer for people like me if it first explained that a scientist breaks the protein into smaller parts, which means the information about its shape is lost, and then analyse it. Then all they have is a chain of amino-acids, and for this reason, they do not know what shape is the most stable one. This is the point of this game, finding the most stable one (hopefully I correctly understood).

Thank you


(Sat, 02/27/2016 - 23:08  |  4 comments)

jeff101's picture
User offline. Last seen 10 hours 17 min ago. Offline
Joined: 04/20/2012
Groups: Go Science
gives a brief overview of the game.
If you scroll down the right column of
there are more links about the Science
Behind Foldit.

New players should start with the Intro/Tutorial Puzzles. gives
videos and tips for many of them. If you get stuck,
post questions to Global Chat. Usually someone is
available at Global Chat to help you. You can even
post images of your puzzle to Chat so folks can see
what you are working on.

After that, try all the Beginner Puzzles you can.
These puzzles are set aside for new players, so
it is easier to get a top score on them. At some
point, you will qualify for Veteran Chat but no
longer be allowed to do Beginner Puzzles. Veteran
Chat generally has advanced discussions about the
game, like what Recipes are best to use, how to
code your own Recipes, etc.

Many players benefit from joining Groups. In a
Group, you get access to Group Chat, a Group Forum,
Group-Only Recipes, and whatever solutions your
Group-mates share. The shared solutions often have
comments listing steps done to find them. You can
learn a lot from evolving solutions shared by other
Group members.

I hope this helps!

jeff101's picture
User offline. Last seen 10 hours 17 min ago. Offline
Joined: 04/20/2012
Groups: Go Science

At some point, it helps to watch the Black Belt
Folding videos at

They often show tricks you can do in the
Original and Selection Interfaces.

Joined: 02/09/2016
Groups: None

Thank you a lot jeff101, your help is sincerely appreciated and useful. However, I wasn’t seeking help, I was making a suggestion to ameliorate the article “The Science Behind Foldit”.

Joined: 04/24/2014
Groups: None
Status: Open » Closed

Thanks for the feedback! We always appreciate constructive ideas to make our resources better.


Developed by: UW Center for Game Science, UW Institute for Protein Design, Northeastern University, Vanderbilt University Meiler Lab, UC Davis
Supported by: DARPA, NSF, NIH, HHMI, Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, RosettaCommons