Friday, September 15, 2006

Awe inspiring complexity and logical depth.

That's what I got watching "The inner life of a cell" a 3D visualization of some of the molecular mechanics of cell biology.

Watching this video was tantamount to a religious experience for me in the level of awe and wonder at the truly staggering and overwhelming complexity of what goes inside the cell at the level of molecular biology. I've read about the MAP/Microtubule transport before and seen diagrams of how the foot-over-foot moveement was supposed to work, but to watch it artistically portrayed recalled memories of "2001" A Space Odyssey -- beauty and science in a single package. It is surreal, almost like a Dali creation, watching those tiny feet attached to a thin strand carry a large amorphous bag of material hundreds or thousands of times larger in volume up a bean stalk.

None of the 3D visualizations of molecular biology I've seen before could convey this sense. There are videos floating around of macrophages in action, or HIV penetrating a cell, but they lack the artistry of this video. The closest I've seen have been the microphotography series of the development of the human fetus in the womb.

The video of course takes some artistic liberties, speeding up or slowing down time, making the cell look mostly empty inside instead of packed to the brim with molecules, but I can accept that these are done so that you may focus on a single mechanism at a time.

In the field of computer science, we are used to coding procedures to construct the proper output data according to guaranteed determinism and error-free execution, so to watch code execute which produces self assembling structures in the presense of error and stochastic processes is simply amazing. The amount of information and logical depth encoded in 4 billion years worth of evolution is a wonder to behold, even for an atheist.

I await the full 8 minute video. Hats off to XVIVO, HHMI and Harvard Biovision.



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