How Rosetta works, an explanation your cat will follow

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Message 13473 - Posted: 11 Apr 2006, 21:24:20 UTC
Last modified: 11 Apr 2006, 21:37:12 UTC

OK ok, not your cat, but your teenager anyway. I\'ve been trying to figure out, if I were placed in front of a room full of people and had to explain what Rosetta is, why the problem is so difficult and what the screen saver is displaying... without tieing my fingers in knots... what would I say? Here\'s my first draft...

Preparation:
Buy a box of plastic drinking straws. Draw three circles with permanent marker around each straw at random points, so they\'re all different.

Hand a straw to each person in the room, and ask them to spin and twist and pull on it for a few minutes while you draw three dots on the board. Tell them to try and make their straw look like the image in the screen saver.

Now, set down your straw and let it \"relax\". Bring it up to the board, and see if the three circles on your straw will ALL come into contact with the three dots on the board, just by holding your straw with one hand on the end... if the three points on the straw match the three points on the board then \"YOU\'VE FOUND A CURE!\", if not, perhaps with some further twisting you can repeat the process and check for a match again.

You can SEE \"the answer\" on the board, you just have to figure out how to MAKE one.

You\'ll pretty quickly have made the point that the combinations are seemingly infinite, yet there definately IS a solution.

NOW, what if the straw was THIS BIG!? (have you seen those 3 foot long, candy filled ones? Bring one to your presentation) Now you can see how the problem is, in some cases, even more difficult to solve.

R@H is handing a \"straw\" to your PC, asking it to try 1,000s of different possible \"twists and pulls\", and report back what you discover.
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Message 13512 - Posted: 12 Apr 2006, 2:11:21 UTC

Clever!!
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Message 13527 - Posted: 12 Apr 2006, 7:29:46 UTC

I\'ve been looking for such a nice and simple explanation for ages. :)

Great idea!

- trib\'
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Lee Carre

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Message 18757 - Posted: 16 Jun 2006, 2:57:16 UTC

good summary, i vote that this be made a \"sticky\" and be linked to from the introduction material, it sums things up very nicely :)
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Message 19683 - Posted: 2 Jul 2006, 11:22:15 UTC

Very nice simple explination. I like it.

I told my wife at home about it and she made this remark that our cat actualy enjoys people twisting straws and seems to chew on them and twist them.. but so far the cat hasnt come close to a cure on the board as you said.. much closer to a shreded mess... oh well mabey the final draft you come up with my cat will understand
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Message 19765 - Posted: 4 Jul 2006, 15:28:11 UTC

\"wife at home\" ... that\'s punny!

Thanks, yes, perhaps with a million cats... and a million straws...
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Message 19766 - Posted: 4 Jul 2006, 15:36:55 UTC - in response to Message 13473.  

\"YOU\'VE FOUND A CURE!\"

Dunno about that ? Clever though. :Thumbsup here:

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Message 19769 - Posted: 4 Jul 2006, 15:57:16 UTC - in response to Message 19766.  

\"YOU\'VE FOUND A CURE!\"

Not sure if you were qouting my original post, or completing my milliona cats thought... but yes, it\'s stretch to say \"you\'ve found a cure\"... but it\'s just an analogy. My cat really couldn\'t understand that it takes scores of correct matches and even with a \"match\" it may not WORK... so I went with three. :)

If you like this explaination, click the green plus sign on the original post. Do this every time you review the message boards, then others can just sort by highest rating first and see all the best (interesting, funny, explanatory... whatever \"best\" measure people thought applied) material.
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Message 19783 - Posted: 4 Jul 2006, 23:44:54 UTC

Yep,I know it is an analogy, but even if the computer modelling is succesful, it does\'nt necessarily mean we have a cure for anything right away. It just means we know the structure of something we did\'nt before, which may lead to a cure or may not.
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Message 19793 - Posted: 5 Jul 2006, 13:37:12 UTC

yes my wife at home.

I am in the US NAVY and curently underway. so yea at home.

i know it sounds like a joke but unfortunatly being were i work sometimes i dont get to see my wife for weeks to months at a time so i explain alot of things over e-mails



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Message 19797 - Posted: 5 Jul 2006, 14:49:54 UTC - in response to Message 19783.  

Yep,I know it is an analogy, but even if the computer modelling is succesful, it does\'nt necessarily mean we have a cure for anything right away. It just means we know the structure of something we did\'nt before, which may lead to a cure or may not.


Yep, exactly. The analogy is actually more correct if you picture the \"docking\" that Rosetta can be used for (WUs coming later this year I understand). And a match doesn\'t mean a cure, but it means you\'ve found one of the needles in the haystack and you can now proceed to study it further and test whether it is a cure, and whether it causes other side effects... etc.

Nasher, sorry, I didn\'t mean to make fun of your situation. Since the projects generally end with \"...at home\" it just tickled me. Thank you for your service to our country. We appreciate the sacrifice of you and your family.
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Message 19903 - Posted: 7 Jul 2006, 20:21:07 UTC

If we can incorporate some analogies like that, simplified so that truly our cats can follow it, into the \'tell a friend function that would be wonderful... :-)
Founder of BOINC GROUP - Objectivists - Philosophically minded rational data crunchers.


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Message 24269 - Posted: 22 Aug 2006, 13:26:43 UTC - in response to Message 19903.  
Last modified: 22 Aug 2006, 13:40:54 UTC

I like it. If it works for you, then I think that\'s great. I think in general if you use a specific presentation then you can fall into the trap of coming off as selling something.

[EDIT: OK, *slaps self upside the head* you\'re talking about explaining the whole lowest energy state thingie which I almost never get into with people]

So far, I\'ve mainly been talking from the heart, describing the problem, and then talking about potential scientific breakthroughs.

So with my more nerdy/geeky friends, I ask them if they remember SETI@Home and then say how cool I think it is that you can now donate processor time to other projects such as climate prediction and protein prediction.

With everybody, I talk about why they need processor power for protein prediction... and that the shape of proteins cannot be studied (presently) in their natural shape. If we knew the shape of proteins then we can possibly have major breakthroughs with diseases such as malaria, HIV, and even stuff like anthrax. If we could halt/eradicate diseases that are tearing apart the people of Africa and throughout Asia, then humanity as a whole would be elevated.

So I:
1) define the problem in a way that the person will understand.
2) emphasize that contribution (in general) is needed. I don\'t request them in the middle that THEY SPECIFICALLY do it; I save that for the end if I\'m not feeling a bunch of energy coming from them.
3) talk about why it inspires me and what is possible. I don\'t talk about other world problems or circumstances (such as warlords in Africa, or potential overpopulation later, etc, etc).
4) If they don\'t ask me how they can get involved, then I request that they get involved.

(I\'m sending out an e-mail to four people today who said previously that they would do it!)
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Message 77739 - Posted: 19 Dec 2014, 1:14:24 UTC
Last modified: 19 Dec 2014, 1:15:00 UTC

Thought this thread was worth reviving so new crunchers see the explanation.
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Message boards : Rosetta@home Science : How Rosetta works, an explanation your cat will follow



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