Thursday, April 30, 2009

But what happens when you enter the sequence into the FTL computer?

The WHO set their Swine Flu phasers to Def-Con 5 yesterday, while encouraging everyone to keep calm and carry on.  That is now significantly easier to do, thanks to a piece of music composed by Stephan Zielinski. Its name? "Swine Flu Hemagglutinin":

Swine flu has been sequenced.  More out of curiosity than anything else, I wrote code to translate a key gene into a piece of ambient music. The algorithm I used is a bit complicated, but just in case you’re curious: since the gene is expressed as a surface protein antibodies can sense, it’s considered as a string of amino acids.  Each beat corresponds to one amino acid, and the piece is in 3/4 time, so each six measures would correspond to five turns around the alpha structure.  (I’m weaseling because I haven’t the foggiest idea how the protein actually gets folded.)  Amino acids with side chains that are neither aromatic not aliphatic control the piano and organ: the nine non-hydrophobics the piano, and the four hydrophobics the organ. The three amino acids with aliphatic side chains control the low synthesizer, while the four with aromatics control the percussion.

You can download the song at Stephan's website here. It's a soothing bit of ambient electronica, perfect for staving off that rising sense of panic.  

photo: Colorized transmission electron micrograph depicting the A/New Jersey/76 (Hsw1N1) virus, while in the virus’ first developmental passage through a chicken egg. This is an H1N1 strain of influenza A. (Credit: Dr. E. Palmer; R.E. Bates)


0 sugar rushes:

Post a Comment