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Phlegmatic molecules

New time-lapse analysis could spell trouble for chemistry theory

1:00pm, May 15, 2008

Chemists can now watch the structures of molecules as they change shape, much like shooting multiple frames of a galloping horse. The new view reveals that when certain molecules switch between different conformations, they do so less often than expected — a finding that could require chemists to revise their theories and that could lead to a better understanding of processes such as how proteins fold.

Brooks Pate of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville brought the time-honored chemistry tool called rotational spectroscopy into the digital era. His team can now collect data about molecules 100 to 10,000 times faster than was previously possible, essentially combini

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