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Molecular Playground debuts next semester

By: Emily Reynolds

Any time someone visits the Museum of Science in Boston, the one place he or she must go is the virtual volleyball, to let their shadows play the game. Now there will be something similar on the UMass campus.

Next fall, when the Integrated Science Building opens, there will be a “Molecular Playground,” a 3-D virtual molecule simulator that you can play with. You’ll be able to push and turn the molecule, as well as enlarge it or shrink it. An infra-red camera will base the movements off of hands and shadows.

Viewers will be able to watch how molecules are affected by many bodily changes, such as allergic reactions, interaction with medicine and other factors. 

The molecule will change on a regular basis, and will be shown on a 6 foot by 9 foot wall in the lobby of the building.

This interactive project was created by Craig Martin, a chemistry professor here at UMass, along with the help of Allen Hanson from the computer science and Eric Martz from the microbiology department. The funding comes from a $45,000 grant awarded by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

According to the Molecular Playground website, the program is intended for non-science persons to promote interest and see the beauty of molecules. Martin hopes the animation of the project will be the biggest attention grabber.

Emily Reynolds can be reached at ereynold@student.umass.edu.

 

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