INTERVIEW: Nicole Feldringer, author of “Outliers”

Nicole Feldringer, author of “Outliers,” discusses the background of her story in this interview featured on SF Signal:

What a fun way to combine crowd-sourced science and gaming! Did any real-life “research by volunteers” inspire this story?

I was inspired by and its predecessor, SETI@home, which both use the concept of volunteer computing. In the case of, large ensembles of state-of-the-art climate models are run on the donated idle time of personal computers. I’m not involved in the project, but from my perspective it’s been a grand success scientifically and also captured public imagination in a profound way.

Accomplishing those simultaneous goals is ideal in crowd-sourced research.

Of course, distributed computing was just baby steps. I later learned of Foldit, an online puzzle video game about protein folding developed at the University of Washington. Apparently protein structure prediction is a big challenge in molecular biology and medicine, and humans are good at pattern matching, even to the point of outperforming computer algorithms. It took Foldit gamers 3 weeks to decode an AIDS protein that stumped researchers for 15 years! That’s when I started imagining what gamification of climate prediction might look like.

Read the rest at SF Signal!