The music of protein folding, the Journal of Star Trek – Physics World


Protein trio: what can we learn from molecular music? (Courtesy: Holger87/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Protein folding is a process that is crucial to life and understanding its intricacies is an important challenge of computational biology. In many fields of science, converting data into sounds has helped researchers deal with complex patterns. Now, an international team of researchers has created a method to represent folded protein nanostructures as musical compositions.

“We explore different avenues of artistic creation, interpolating between human design, natural or evolutionary design, and designs from a deep recurrent network model that was trained against musical scores of known three-dimensional protein structures,” they write in a paper that has been accepted for publication in Nano Futures.

“Artistically, our work offers a new perspective on the limits of scientific understanding, and allows human players to interact with nanoscale phenomena, providing a tool for STEM outreach, and use of nanoscopic phenomena for artistic expression.”

That sounds like a great idea.

The Retraction Watch website has an article about an academic journal that has published 19 papers from the same author about the sci-fi franchise Star Trek. If you subscribe to Early Human Development you can enjoy papers such as “The banality of evil in the occupation of Star Trek’s Bajor” and “Doctors in Star Trek: Non-benevolent and inhumane alien medics. They are by the consultant paediatrician Victor Grech – who also wrote a PhD thesis titled Infertility in Science Fiction.

Personally, I love Star Trek – well, the original series – so I have no problem with scholarly papers on the subject. But perhaps not in a journal described as being “concerned with the continuity of foetal and postnatal life”.

Indeed, I would like to see a paper on the most pressing philosophical question facing Star Trek fans – who is better, Captain Kirk or Captain Picard?

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