The other night I wanted to kill some time before “30 Rock” started, so I sat down and tried to build a strand of RNA. I clicked a yellow adenine avatar to turn it into peppermint-candy-shaped guanine, preparing to form a base pair. I moused over whole sections of my virtual molecule, switching bases and zooming in and out to ensure I kept the required shape as I formed more chemical bonds.
For now, for me, the computer game EteRNA is a fun diversion. But maybe someday, if I get really good, Adrien Treuille and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University will bring one of my RNAs to life, synthesizing it in a lab and checking whether it could lead to new drugs or new research in biotechnology. I would so love to find out. And this is exactly the point.