Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Crooks fluctuation theorem?

There are several reasons why you should read this article about the experimental verification of Crooks fluctuation theorem. For starters, the article begins with stirring a cup of coffee - though I do not agree with the conclusion, viz, 'Stir a cup of coffee with a small enough spoon, and the coffee might just stir you' - A cup of coffee always stirs me, irrespective of whether I stir it or not (By the way, that link to Wiki-coffee is just for the photograph and entry of the Madras filter coffee on that page). Second, it is about a nano-bio - as hot (and I hope, as wonderful) as coffee these days. Finally, it is about that classic science of thermodynamics, and the verification of a fluctuation theorem called Crooks fluctuation theorem - The experiments are sort of cute, and I understand that the technique that is used in the experiment might be valid for most biological molecules.

So, what is it all about? WP Wong and E Evans write about the experiments of Collin et al with RNA molecules using atomic force microscopes and optical tweezers. The aim: to verify the Crooks fluctuation theorem, which, I understand, posits the likelihood of 'dissipation-free' processes in small enough systems. The verdict: Crooks fluctuation theorem does hold in the case of unfolding and refolding of single RNA molecules.

One of the authors, Carlos Bustamante is interviewed by Nature, and he says that they did 35 drafts before submitting the paper. 35 drafts... for Chrissake. That killed me. I only hope Abi is not listening!

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