“Democratizing science?” Play Video Games to Fold RNA

First Foldit, then Phylo, now EteRNA. Investigators at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University have launched “an online video game that challenges players to design new ways to fold RNA molecules,” reports The New York Times. EteRNA, which was designed for non-scientists, allows players to “design elaborate [RNA] structures including knots, lattices and switches,” the Times reports, adding that the game will go beyond simulations, in that “each week the best designs created by game players and chosen by the gaming community will be synthesized at Stanford.” Carnegie Mellon’s Adrien Treuille, who was part of the team that created Foldit, tells the Times that EteRNA “is like putting a molecular chess game in people’s hands at a massive level. … I think we are democratizing science.” Users must register for a free account on the EteRNA homepage, which greets visitors with the message “played by humans, scored by nature.”

Livemocha(TM) Brings Language Learning Out of the Stone Age

Livemocha(TM), the world’s largest online language learning community, announced the launch of Livemocha Active Courses(TM), a set of ground-breaking online language courses for English, French, Italian, German and Spanish that promise conversational fluency through the combination of world-class course curriculum, personalized feedback from Livemocha Experts, and limitless practice with native speakers.

Designed with the help of leading language publishers Pearson and Harper Collins, the new Active Courses provide a set of online self-study courses that match or exceed the educational caliber of traditional textbook curriculum while integrating online community instruction to ensure the level of fluency that only practice with native speakers can bring. The Active Course offerings promise conversational fluency upon course completion and at a fraction of the cost of traditional language learning software.

Livemocha will continue to offer free, basic lessons in 38 languages including Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Farsi, Hindi and Ukrainian.

Elsevier Announces the “Article of the Future”

Elsevier has launched the ‘Article of the Future’ project, an ongoing collaboration with the scientific community to redefine how a scientific article is presented online. The project takes full advantage of online capabilities, allowing readers individualized entry points and routes through content, while exploiting the latest advances in visualization techniques.

The key feature of the prototypes is a hierarchical presentation of text and figures so that readers can elect to drill down through the layers based on their current task in the scientific workflow and their level of expertise and interest. This organizational structure is a significant departure from the linear-based organization of a traditional print-based article in incorporating the core text and supplemental material within a single unified structure.

A second key feature of the prototypes is bulleted article highlights and a graphical abstract. This allows readers to quickly gain an understanding of the paper’s main ‘take home’ message and serves as a navigation mechanism to directly access specific sub-sections of the results and figures. The graphical abstract is intended to encourage browsing, promote interdisciplinary scholarship and help readers identify more quickly which papers are most relevant to their research interests.

Using content from two previously published Cell articles, the prototypes have been developed by the editorial, production and IT teams at Cell Press in collaboration with Elsevier’s User Centered Design group.

Elsevier and Cell Press are inviting feedback from the scientific community on the concepts at: http://beta.cell.com/