This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Comment

← Drew Berry: Animations of unseeable biology

Quine's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by Quine

The value I see in these is that they can communicate decades of research results in just a few minutes. That is a big speed up for the education process. Yes, you then have to go in and spend time explaining how the simplification is not quite what is going on, but that is still faster, and lets you decide what level of zoom-in is appropriate for the given context. You have to explain that the inside of a cell is not full of air or empty space, but full of water and ions and a vast array of small to medium molecules that are not shown because that would hide the large molecules you want to watch. Then you have to explain that all these not shown molecules are in very rapid (at body temp.) Brownian motion that cause them to continually crash into the molecules that you are watching, and imparting random motion to them. Molecules don't just jip over to a hole in the membrane they are "supposed" to go through, they have to bounce around until they happen to bang through (known as the narrow escape problem).

Likewise, kinesin molecules don't have knees or leg muscles and don't really "walk" using gravity (as much as the Intelligent Design idiots will try to describe it that way). However, in a system where every lose molecule is flying all over in Brownian motion, you can get simple directional transport if you have any means that makes it harder to move backward, because then forward is for free. You don't get that from an animation that leaves out all the jiggling (beloved of Feynman), but if you could see that jiggling, you would understand how much, much, simpler (but slower and less efficient) means could have been there doing the job long ago in Evolution, i.e. no Irrefutable Perplexity.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 08:56:52 UTC | #908139