(click on one to view)
The molecular aspects of nature
are too often viewed as inaccessible and uninteresting to the general public. While the public can appreciate the beauty of a flower or a swan, the molecular basis of these organisms goes unnoticed. While scientists appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty of both small and macromolecules, this is rarely communicated to the public. Consequently, the public sees molecular science as something removed from their everyday life. Even worse, much of the public associates 'chemicals' with toxins and pollution.
With support from the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation and the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and its supporters and alumni, this project has developed a system for displaying large-scale interactive molecules in prominent public spaces. The first such system was installed in the new Integrated Sciences Building on campus (see listing at right for others). The aim is to capture the public's attention and to prod individuals to explore personally a vast array of molecular structures in a human-size "molecular playground," as shown in the movie below.
The presentations are targeted primarily to the nonscientist, focusing on the symmetry and beauty of molecules, large and small. Natural small molecule cofactors or life saving drugs are placed into larger ribbon view protein structures, for example, to illustrate their functional synergy. Authors strive for art-like presentations, while remaining true to the underlying chemistry. Animation, even in the absence of user interaction, is key.
Help is available for those interested in authoring new presentations.
If you can't visit one of the installations (or if you have, but want to learn more), please browse through the list of molecules at left and click on one.
The Molecular Playground now has a blog. Please visit our blog and comment on either the installation or the WEB site. We welcome feedback!
Would you like to install your own Molecular Playground? Visit our installation instructions page and then contact us through the links above
- 2013, May - Playground featured at Blair High School open house (Pasadena, CA)
- 2013, February - Eight sites up and running!
- 2012, January - Four sites up and running, two more being planned!
- 2011, November - Read a four page article about us in the UMass Amherst Magazine
- 2011, July - read about how the Molecular Playground works
- 2011, July - installation instructions have been updated
- 2011, June - a new installation is in progress at the Okinowa Institute of Technology, Japan
- 2011, May - we're expanding! Installations are in progress at the Springfield Science Museum and at St. Olaf's College in Northfield, Minnesota.
- 2011 - see an "unconventional" user interface
- 2010, May 20: added content created by Chemistry-Biology Interface Training Program (CBI) students!
- 2010, April 2: a preliminary set of installation instructions is being prepared.
- 2010, March 11: More molecules added! Site revised some.
- 2009, December 20:
Instructions and short-cuts are provided for
authoring modules to display new molecules in Molecular Playground.
- 2009, November 15: Added a zero-calorie fat, a zero-calorie
sweetener (no web pages yet).
- 2009, October 8: Added the ribosome, after its structure won the Nobel Prize.
- 2009, September 27: Added green fluorescent protein, cellular retinoic acid-binding protein (CRABP) and acetophenone. (Only CRABP has a web page.)
- 2009, September 14: The Integrated Sciences Building is formally opened, with ceremonies that feature the Molecular Playground.
- 2009, September: Molecular
Playground is installed and becomes operational in the
Integrated Sciences Building.
Inaugural modules feature Tamiflu (an anti-influenza drug), HIV protease
inhibitor (an anti-HIV drug), and RNA polymerase (with web pages for all three).
- 2008, October:
The latest version of Jmol (which displays the interactive molecules in Molecular Playground) is reviewed in Chemical & Engineering News (bottom of page).
|Vibrational modes in acetophenone
||Cellular retinoic acid binding protein
|Used to create fragrances that resemble almond, cherry, honeysuckle, jasmine, and strawberry.
It occurs naturally in many foods.
|This protein transports vitamin A in the body.
More detailed information on this protein is available