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B. Hold That Molecule

Narrator: : Want to look at a molecule? Mike Bailey has one you can hold in your hand. This is Science Today. Bailey, a computer imaging expert at the University of California, San Diego, works with a device called a laminated object manufacturing machine.

Bailey: Basically it builds up a 3-D object from layers of paper. Each layer of paper is about four thousandths of an inch thick, so about 250 layers of paper per inch. A laser is used at each layer to cut out the cross section.

Narrator: : Scientists who want to go beyond an image on a computer screen come to Bailey for models of everything from planets to machine parts.

Bailey: Probably some of our most interesting and popular work we've done so far has been in the area of molecular modeling. We've done a lot of work building protein molecules.

Narrator: : By holding a model, biochemists learn things about proteins that never would have occurred to them looking at a screen.

Bailey: You can turn it around, you can run your fingers through it, you can really get an idea of the shape. And it's that kind of shape insight that the molecular modeling people are after.

Narrator: : For Science Today, I'm Steve Tokar.