April 30, 2009

Want some cheese with that swine?

So yeah, pigs are taking over the world. Or at least the news feeds and the stock options for Prestige Ameritech and their surgical masks. Everyone's heard about this swine flu deal which frankly strikes me as a cross between Y2K and the bird flu scare. But science will not be deterred! Science will overcome! Science will... uhmmm... compose?

Some dude, Stephan Zielinski (I knew a Stephan and a Zielinski in high school, wonder if they married) transcribed the amino acid sequence for hemagglutinin 1 (aka the "H1" of H1N1 influenza) into a music sequence. In his own words:

"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."


It's strangely beautiful, in a child-with-Lennox-Gastaut-playing-your-keyboard-from-the-early-90's sort of way.

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