Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Virtual Epidemiology

The PS3 Folding at Home project harnesses the distributed processing power of idle playstations to use computational methods to understand protein folding, misfolding and related diseases. (The project isn't limited to the playstation - anybody with a PC and an internet connection can donate spare processor cycles). Now scientists are considering using World of Warcraft (WoW) to model infectious diseases. They think the natural interactions of a massively multiplayer online game (MMORPG) community (including travel and social interaction) can be harnessed to test hypotheses about disease spread. How well teleporting from Teldrassil to Durotar mimics an airline flight from New York to Toronto remains to be seen, but it's an interesting idea. A couple of years ago a virtual plague swept through the WoW land of Azeroth and the behaviour of the virtual population mimicked that of real populations during historical epidemics. An analysis of the 'Corrupted Blood' plague and commentary on the usefulness of MMORPGs for epidemiological studies can be found in a recent issue of the journal Epidemiology. Forget Bayman's facebook PhD... I'm majoring in World of Warcraft.


rob said...

FYI. I read somewhere that 'corrupted blood' was so devastating to WoW that they had to restart the servers.