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Corralling Brownian motion

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1:59pm, March 28, 2006

From Baltimore, at a meeting of the American Physical Society

If you think making a little kid sit still for a camera is hard, try it with a protein in a water droplet. Such tiny objects jitter constantly from collisions with molecules of the water around them, and that activity quickly drives a protein molecule out of a typical microscope's view.

A new microscope system can compensate for those jitters, known as Brownian motion. The system has held minuscule fluorescent objects in its view for seconds at a time. The newfound stability promises scientists a means to study important biological agents in their natural environment, report the gadget's inventors. "We can trap smaller objects than can be trapped by any other means—all the way down to individual proteins," claims Adam E. Cohen of Stanford University.

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