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← Drew Berry: Animations of unseeable biology

Steve Zara's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Steve Zara

comment 8 by SteveN

Although the structures of the molecules are presumably accurate, their movement in the videos is made to look too intentional and purposeful.

We should perhaps accept reality, which is that what happens in biology at molecular levels is simply impossible to represent in any realistic way.

The computer software pioneer Alan Kay, who has a history in molecular biology, explained things like this:

If you enlarged a typical protein molecule to the size of a small car, it would be racing around at three times the speed of light.

Any enlargement of molecules to the point where they are visible would mean that a realistic real-time representation is simply impossible. Although individual chemical reactions can be extremely fast, biochemical processes, which involve huge and complex molecules, are usually incredibly slow by comparison. If we scaled things up so that individual chemical reactions took seconds, then something like the building of a protein molecule by a ribosome would be barely noticeable even on a scale of centuries. If we tried to watch a protein being built in an animation, we would see nothing because of the incredible speed of motion and vibration of individual atoms.

What we are seeing in these animations is nothing like reality. Reality is far, far stranger.

Fri, 13 Jan 2012 13:08:12 UTC | #907901