Friday, December 1, 2017

Poured Out Like Water

A guest post I wrote for the Science and Belief blog put out by the Faraday Institute was just published. Click here to read it.

Here's the first few paragraphs:

My calling as a scientist is to produce and analyse protein structures, which are complex arrangements of atoms. These structures are beautiful, messy things. Because atoms have no colour, we protein scientists can paint our structures any colour we want. Most of us, myself included, choose bright, bold, primary colours, the colours of children’s toys. In our computer-generated models, the atoms are polished and shiny, reflecting virtual spotlights as if placed in a tiny photography studio.

When I think of life, I think first of proteins and their atoms, stacked up and shiny like baubles in a store window. This image of life is accurate in its details, but incomplete. Just like an old yearbook photo is an accurate but incomplete representation of you, a protein structure is a single, static image of a much more dynamic whole.

Those shiny atoms don’t belong exclusively to that protein structure. Before the carbon atoms were in the protein, they were brought into the animal as food. Before that, they may have been carbon dioxide gas that were tied together into a sugar molecule by sunlight and photosynthesis. Long, long before that, the twelve protons and neutrons that made the carbon atom were fused together inside a star.

... click to read more ...

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