Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Animating a cell

The subject that appealed most to me while browsing through the lectures was one titled "Animating a Cell" with David Bolinsky: he's a medical illustrator with a knowledge of animation, and is currently working in accordance with Harvard University to digitally express the functions and inner workings of cells with complete atomic accuracy. This is positively groundbreaking: now digital art can help us visualize that which cameras have yet to capture (due to the teensiness of molecules...), and although the project is not yet complete, the examples David displayed were mindblowing. Never before has an illustration (that I've seen on the internet anyways) so accurately expressed the complex molecular shapes of the proteins constantly working within the cell apparati; I recognized ribosomes, a golgi apparatus, vacuoles, something I believe was a synapse firing (or building a charge perhaps?), or maybe the export of neurotransmitters through the vacuole (or whatever the sac encasing them is called, I'm too lazy to look it up right now) and its binding to the cell wall at the molecular level!!! This will SIGNIFICANTLY increase our understanding of the inner functions of a cell through their visualization, and will no doubt increase a student's ability to visualize and understand these notions that are explained with such complexity in our biology textbooks. And if these originally complicated ideas of the innerworkings of cells becomes common knowledge within a student body, then there will no doubt be further strides taken in the near future towards fully understanding this complicated system we hardly know anything about!! What I find even more astounding is the role visual art plays within these advances: the visualization of a process is the easiest way for the human brain to comprehend a subject, and until technology can provide video footage at the molecular level of these processes, artistic rendering and atomically correct animation is the best alternative!

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