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Archive: December 12, 2004

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the Dickerson formula

Sunday,  12/12/04  07:45 PM

I had a weird sense of familiarity seeing a post from John Robb about  The Dickerson Formula:

"In 1977, Richard Dickerson, then a professor of physical chemistry at Caltech, noted that the number of protein crystal structures had risen from one solved by the end of 1961 to 23 solved by the end of 1977.  His formula predicted that by March 2001, scientists would have solved the 3-D structures of a grand total of more than 12,000 proteins.  By that date, the Protein Data Bank (PDB) had posted 12,123 protein structures."

Richard DickersonRichard Dickerson was my undergrad advisor while I was at Caltech.  I was only passingly familiar with his conjecture, which in the intervening years has graduated to a “law”.

Retinol - Vitamin A

My father was a crystallographer, and in collaboration with Linus Pauling published the structure of Retinol, one of the chemicals known as Vitamin A, in 1956.  Although they did not completely solve the 3D structure in the Dickerson sense, they determined the Amino Acid configurations and detailed configuration of the active sites, the first time this had been done for any organic molecule.

Ascorbic Acid - Vitamin C
Ascorbic Acid

The techniques at their disposal were primitive by today's standards; the formulae had to be laboriously worked by hand, and much of the arithmetic to compute crystal reflections was done using slide rules. Pauling’s team went on to solve the detailed structure of Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) using the same techniques, which was the first molecule completely characterized in 3D, in 1961 (the first data point for the Dickerson conjecture).

It is a small world.


Sunday,  12/12/04  10:37 PM

Suggestions for online stores:

  • Tell me if you don't have something in stock.
  • Show what stuff costs right up front, including shipping if possible.
  • No flash, please.  And don't pop up new windows at weird sizes.
  • HTML is way better than PDF.
  • No surveys, please.  I'll vote with my money.

Victor Davis Hanson bonks another nail on the head: The Ents of Europe, how "old Europe" resembles the Tolkein characters.  "Gut-check time is coming for Europe, with its own rising unassimilated immigrant populations, rogue mosques entirely bent on destroying the West, declining birth rate and rising entitlements, the Turkish question, and a foreign policy whose appeasement of Arab regimes won it only a brief lull and plenty of humiliation."  Will the old Ents awaken, or will they slumber on, muttering nonsense to themselves, lost in past grandeur and utterly clueless about the dangers on their borders?

Sisu wonders about Rats Leaving the Sinking Ship.  "Escaping the stress of clogged roads, street violence and loss of faith in Holland's once celebrated way of life, the Dutch middle classes are leaving the country in droves for the first time in living memory."  Hmmm...  Even Adam Curry moved to England.  Not that he's a rat, he's more like a savvy canary.

Francis Porretto on Finding the Waste Line:  "The observation about input is economically fundamental: you cannot make anything new out of a single input.  All production involves a combination of some kind of working substance with some kind of labor."  And this is the driver of outsourcing in America...  read it!  [ via American Digest ]

Eiffel tower ice rink.This is awesome - there is now an ice rink 200' above the ground in the Eiffel Tower.  [ via Kate Yandoh ]

Sassam OnAir HDTVAnother cool TV / PC convergence thing: The Sassam OnAir HDTV let's you watch HDTV on your computer.  It's gotten to the point where if you imagine a device with some capability, it already exists.  [ via Tom's Hardware ]

A terrific interview with Stephen Hawking: The Science of Second Guessing.  "My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus."  What an amazing person he is, not just an incredible scientist, but a wonderful thinker in all areas.  [ via Ann Althouse ]

GNXP skewers the NYTimes' "year in ideas" issue.  I have to admit, they found a lot of interesting ideas from the year, but their take is amazingly clueless.

JavaHMO is an open-source replacement for Tivo's Home Media Option.  It has an amazingly long list of features - including email and RSS integration - and since the source code is available you can add to them yourself :)  [ via George Hotelling ]

Scott Loftesness links Robert X. Cringley's thoughts on the IBM-Lenovo deal and summarizes: "IBM's playing chess, the others are still playing checkers."  Interesting.

Hey, iTunes now supports PayPal.  That's pretty cool.  Good for Apple - they lower their cost of processing payments - and good for PayPal - they get additional flow, great publicity, and added legitimacy.  And good for us, we get another payment option!

New Year's Resolution update: 205.  Again.  Sigh.


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