Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chemistry: The Motion Picture (Animated Version)

Todd Martinez and colleagues at Stanford have become directors on the smallest movie set of all time. The paper they published describes how they animate chemical reactions using computer models. The unique angle they take is to watch a simple chemical reaction zoomed in to a medium point. At this point they are focused neither on just one molecule nor on an incomprehensible flaskful of molecules. At this Goldlocks level of complexity, they can see atoms reacting and can catch fleeting side reactions that wouldn't be seen by other techniques -- yet are certainly important. Most of all, the motion of the atoms is as mesmerizing as a lava lamp. I spent decades learning how molecules move so I can have movies like this in my head when I read about a chemical reaction. You can skip to the back of the book and see what's in my head by watching the movie at this link. Try it and let me know what you see.

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