Compared with humans, computers have the capacity to solve problems at much greater speed.
There are many problems, however, where computational speed alone is insufficient to find a correct or optimal solution, for example because the parameter “space” cannot be fully searched in a practical time.
In contrast, the human mind can formulate expert knowledge specific for particular problems, providing a capacity to guide more efficient searches, although with more limited processing speed.
The power of the human contribution can be multiplied through the efforts of a greater number of individuals. The term `crowdsourcing', which combines the two domains of human and electronic computing, was coined in 2006 and since then has seen its definition broadened to a wide range of activities involving a network of people.
A challenging problem that might benefit from crowdsourcing is the phase problem in X-ray crystallography. Retrieving the phase information has plagued many scientists for decades when trying to determine the crystal structure of a sample.
In a diffraction experiment, the observed diffraction pattern allows measurement of the amplitudes of the reflection structure factors (as the square root of the intensities) but not their phases. The amplitudes and phases are both needed to reconstruct an electron-density map (by Fourier synthesis) so that a model of the crystallized molecule can be obtained.
There are a number of ways currently scientists try to solve the phase problem, all with varying degrees of success.
Regardless of the particular approach, most attacks on the phase problem can be viewed as having two sub-problems. One concerns how a high-dimensional space (i.e. of phases) can be efficiently searched, while the other concerns how a good solution can be recognized.
Crowdsourcing may be a route to solving these sub-problems [Jorda et al. (2014), Acta Cryst. D70, 1538-1548; doi:10.1107/S1399004714006427], here scientists have developed a game based on a genetic algorithm (a powerful search-optimization technique), where players control the selection mechanism during the evolutionary process (by recognising the good solutions).
The algorithm starts from a population of “individuals”, in this case a map prepared from a random set of phases, and tries to cause the population to evolve towards individuals with better phases based on Darwinian survival of the fittest. Players apply their pattern-recognition capabilities to evaluate the electron-density maps generated from these sets of phases and to select the fittest individuals.
The game called CrowdPhase (http://www.crowdphase.com) was applied to two synthetic low-resolution phasing puzzles and it was shown that players could successfully obtain phase sets in the 30 degree phase error range and corresponding molecular envelopes showing agreement with the low-resolution models.
Successful preliminary studies suggest that with further development the crowdsourcing approach could fill a gap in current crystallographic methods by making it possible to extract meaningful information in cases where limited resolution might otherwise prevent initial phasing.Jonathan Agbenyega
Dr. Jonathan Agbenyega | Eurek Alert!
Study suggests buried Internet infrastructure at risk as sea levels rise
17.07.2018 | University of Wisconsin-Madison
Microscopic trampoline may help create networks of quantum computers
17.07.2018 | University of Colorado at Boulder
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
17.07.2018 | Information Technology
17.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering