A research team at Los Alamos National Laboratory has topped a world record for biological simulations, and given us a taste of reducto ad absurdum. As reported in the Nov. 1 issue of PNAS the LANL team, led by Kevin Sanbonmatsu, used 768 of the 8,192 CPUs in LANL's ASCI Q supercomputer to model the motion of 2.64 million atoms in a ribosome complex -- 250,000 in the ribosome itself, and most of the rest from water molecules. The processors chugged away for some 260 days, completing 20 million frames of motion. Sounds impressive, right? It is: it's six times larger than any biological simulation ever done. LANL has made a Quicktime movie of the simulation available on its Web site. The sim is a bit jerky, but it shows in atomic detail how the A-site tRNA binds to the ribosome and swings the new amino acid into position during...

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