In Print: Science Models

If you ever visit the Museum of Science in Boston, in a certain corner of the museum you'll find a giant insect hovering over a toy train set. This particular display, in a section about scale and models, delights and terrifies my three-year-old. He loves the train but is scared silly by the big bug. I had this section of the museum, and the ideas of scaling up and scaling down, on my mind when putting together this week's Newscripts column. That's because one story focuses on a new protein model building kit and the second story is about making bite-size gummy people. Models are a big deal in science. They help us visualize and give us tactile experiences with all sorts of different things. From grade school, I recall a giant model of the ear and ear canal. My favorite thing to do was to pull out the tiny ossicles--those smallest of human bones--from the middle ear canal and try to figure out which was which amongst the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup.
Credit: ThinkGeek

Credit: ThinkGeek

In chemistry, where we can't really see the molecules we study, models are even more important for getting across ideas such as chirality and structure. Did anyone else learn stereochemistry with toothpicks and gumdrops? It will be interesting to see what happens with the new Tangle Proteins Building Set, from chemistry professor Marcel Jaspars, of Scotland's University of Aberdeen, and sculptor Richard X. Zawitz. The new set looks like it will give budding biochemists the ability to build proteins in the same way that organic students build natural products. As for the second item in the column, I confess that I wrote about the FabCafe in Japan because I saw the pictures of their gummy people online and was absolutely taken with how cool they looked, especially the image below. It's so Matrix-meets-Haribo.
Credit: www.fabcafe.com

Credit: www.fabcafe.com

One of the C&EN editors even told me that he thought $65 was a bargain for seeing yourself reproduced in gummy candy. I heartily agree. Too bad this was just a special event at the FabCafe. And that the FabCafe is so far away (from me anyway). I love the idea of sitting down with a cafe au lait and then trying my hand at a laser cutter. Are there any Newscripts readers who have had the good fortune to visit this spot?

Author: Bethany Halford

Share This Post On