Thursday, February 07, 2008

A new way of science

As I was putting up my poster on Monday night at the Biophysics meeting, a bored security guard nearby (lets call him Deshaw) came upto me (B) and we had the following conversation:

D: "So wat is yo stuff about?"

B: with pins still in mouth "Essh abou visad" all pins out "Its about the visual receptor"

D: "Cool" Reads the poster for a while "Man, didya make all of this sh*t?"

B: wincing slightly at this description of 4 years of data "yes, it is my work"

D: after carefully trying to read everything "What are ya sayin' here bro?"

B: "Well, we show how many units of these" points at the rhodopsin diagram "are needed to be able to see" laughs mentally at the generalization he just made

D: "Um..hmm. Aw! Is this how books get written?"

B: surprised and happy "Yes that is how it eventually goes into books"

D: also surprised and eyes gleaming "That be so cool dawg, so damn cool"

B: feeling rather nice about himself and the scientific community in general "Thanks!"

D: "You know wat tho bro? You guys should come up with a new kinda math"

B: "What?"

D: "Dude, math right now is jus too hard. I would read if I cud understand it li'l better, y'know wha I'm sayin'?"

B: "Actually, you may like a special display tomorrow. Its by a friend of mine. She has made a molecular fitting program to work like a video game"

This was indeed one of the most fascinating displays at the meeting. My colleague wrote an API for a force-feedback based haptic device to work with a software that docks small x-ray structures into a big model of a complex protein. It is like playing a video game where you maneuver the molecules into the model like a jigsaw puzzle. The joystick rumbles when you get clashes or repulsions between the molecules and guides you to the correct orientation. I have used the software with a mouse before, but using the joystick really blew me away. Its like Flight Simulator for geeks. I immediately saw the potential of the device in teaching biophysics in schools.

The next day when I was wrapping up my poster, I met Deshaw again:

D: "Man, I went upto that bada*s thing dawg. That thing is sick"

B: "So you liked it?"

D: "Yeah man, it was awesome. But the chick kept talking about some electron potential sh*t that went over my head y'know. She was real pretty tho"

B: "She was probably trying to explain what she did to make the software"

At that moment, the aforementioned colleague smiles at us as she passed by.

D: "Daaammmn! She's soooo fiiine"

and before I knew it-

D: "Man, I gonna hook you up with her"

B: "WHAT?"

D: "You looked out for me dawg, I gonna get you her number. You guys can get a li'l sumthin sumthin goin' on"

I could only hope that by 'little something, something' he meant a scientific collaboration

B: "No no no. She is our collaborator. I have her email. I am married. She is married. She is going to her lab people... Wait, Deshaw come back here. Come back. DESHAW!!"

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