It's the holiday season, which means it's time to give back to communities and do a little philanthropy. Well, for some folks it is anyway. If you're too cheap and lazy to help a brother out, we have one suggestion: play a game for science. The game is Phylo, a pattern-matching puzzle game on the surface, but a complicated research tool underneath.
Before you go running away, we should probably note that the game is actually pretty fun. It incorporates pattern recognition into a block and matching game. You'll have to get through a hefty tutorial before you can start digging into the game, but once you do, you'll likely find a lot of enjoyment. Oh, and you'll be benefiting the future of mankind.
What your pattern-matching prowess will do is give researchers a chance to look at the ways genomes align across species; each time you create a block of color, there is a match. The result is a better understanding of which mutations may create disease -- or, in layman's terms, science is happening and you're helping. It's a win-win, really. You get to skip out on working for a while, science learns stuff.
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Pattern-matching games tend be addictive to anyone with even the slightest amount of OCD, but Phylo's meta-game to save the species is even more difficult to put down. It doesn't really matter whether you understand that you're matching DNA strands or not -- the game could have been populated and filled with manga characters dancing around and throwing bubbles -- the research would have remained the same.
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If you're still scratching your head, don't worry. The reason the game exists is because computers are notoriously bad at pattern recognition, so creating a game around solving this problem is simply a method of crowdsourcing research. What matters is that once you get through the tutorial you'll find yourself playing a highly enjoyable game with a relaxing, jazzy soundtrack. It's idle philanthropy, with fun involved and no dishing out of soup.
Play it here.