How “Angry Birds” Can Help Cure Cancer

By Shlomo  Maital

        Genes in Space

  The BBC World Service program Health Watch recounts this morning how British cancer researchers, with a burst of creativity, have enlisted cell phone games to help them cure cancer.

   Here is the story.

   An intensive British study of the genetic foundations of breast cancer has revealed a number of genes related to the illness.  It is complicated by the fact that breast cancer is not just one illness, but perhaps 10 different ones.  This study involves study of massive amounts of data, much harder than finding a needle in a haystack.  It requires identifying “peaks and troughs” in data, to find places where gene defects are linked to breast cancer.

    Someone had the brilliant idea, that the human eye is terrific at pattern recognition, better than perhaps software.  So why not create a game, Genes in Space, in which people with idle time, who play games on their cell phones, could view gene data, in the form of ‘peaks and troughs’, and play a game in which you get points for finding those peaks and troughs.  It’s a real gripping cell phone game, perhaps not quite Angry Birds, but close, involving destroying threatening asteroids, etc. 

      One ‘formula’ for creativity is X+Y.  Find an X (search for genes related to breast cancer),  and a Y  (cell phone games), and find a creative novel useful way to link them, in a way that has not been done before.  The British researchers have done that.  They use the idle time of people to do something useful. 

      Great idea, team.  Are there other ways that we can use Angry Birds technology, to do good for humanity, instead of just burn time?