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Tracking Water Molecules Could Unlock Secrets 102

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the h-two-ohmygosh dept.
ScienceDaily is reporting that several new discoveries about the simple molecule of water have kicked off a surge in research that scientists believe could lead to solving some of the world's most tricky problems from agriculture to cancer. "Understanding how individual water molecules maneuver in a system to form fleeting tetrahedral structures and how changing physical conditions such as temperatures and pressures affect the amount of disorder each imparts on that system may help scientists understand why certain substances, like drugs used in chemotherapy, are soluble in water and why some are not. It could also help understand how this changing network of bonds and ordering of local tetrahedrality between water molecules changes the nature of protein folding and degradation. 'Understanding hydrophobicity, and how different conditions change it, is probably one of the most fundamental components in understanding how proteins fold in water and how different biomolecules remain stable in it,' says Kumar. 'And if we understand this, we will not only have a new way of thinking about physics and biology but also a new way to approach health and disease.'"
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Tracking Water Molecules Could Unlock Secrets

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  • Well, someone had to say it.

  • Wasn't the whole point of the whole quantum mechanics thingie that you cannot measure things this precise?

    • by skgrey (1412883) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:35PM (#31319612)
      Ten points for bringing up quantum mechanics and measuring precision, negative a thousand points for referring to it as a "thingie".
      • by bakawolf (1362361)
        great, so you know how fast he's moving....
      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday March 01, 2010 @03:19PM (#31320270) Homepage Journal

        Indeed, on the quantum scale it's a "thingette" or "nanothing". Physicists are still arguing over the correct nomenclature.

        • by AndersOSU (873247)

          unless it changes flavors - then it might be a whatzit or wherezit.

          Seriously though, from WIMPs and MACHOs, I wouldn't be shocked in the least if the next generations physics students are learning about thingies.

          • by c6gunner (950153)

            Seriously though, from WIMPs and MACHOs, I wouldn't be shocked in the least if the next generations physics students are learning about thingies.

            I sure hope so. Maybe then they'll actually start reproducing.

          • by Nevynxxx (932175)
            And calling quark flavours, strange and charm in the 60s was better? Up and Down were bad enough Top and Bottom often get called Truth and Beauty. At least WIMP and MACHO mean something.....
            • by AndersOSU (873247)

              Don't get me wrong, I don't think there's anything wrong with it, I just wouldn't be surprised.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by thomst (1640045)

          "And a bird, you cannot change". -- Yoda Skynard

          "And this bird, change you cannot". -- Yoda Skynnard

          Fixed that for you!

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Molecules are pretty huge in terms of quantum mechanics.

    • Re:Physics anyone? (Score:4, Informative)

      by FooAtWFU (699187) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:40PM (#31319702) Homepage
      No. The point of quantum mechanics was the quantization, with all those little quanta (discrete particles). Hence the name. The uncertainty principle, moreover, has a numeric quantity behind it which describes exactly how much you can hope to measure in a specific measurement. The physics of hydrophobia/hydrophilia and molecular biology in the aggregate is quite discoverable.
      • by Mashdar (876825)
        You pretend to know things. You should not.

        A) TFS states that the they are looking at protein folding, which can hardly be viewed probabilistically for a macro-scale (ie "in the aggregate").
        B) Quantum mechanics deals extensively with uncertainty through models of superposition, which include probability functions.
        • by BitterOak (537666)

          You pretend to know things. You should not.

          A) TFS states that the they are looking at protein folding, which can hardly be viewed probabilistically for a macro-scale (ie "in the aggregate").

          Why not? I'm sure they are looking at many protein molecules, not just one. In fact any chemical reaction happens at the molecular level, but they are generally studied by looking at macroscopic properties of reactants and products. Protein folding is no different.

          B) Quantum mechanics deals extensively with uncertainty through models of superposition, which include probability functions.

          That's not quite correct. Probabilities don't come into the superposition part of it. Probabilities enter during measurement. In fact, one of the great unsolved mysteries of quantum mechanics is what exactly is a measurement?

    • Re:Physics anyone? (Score:5, Informative)

      by The_Wilschon (782534) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:41PM (#31319716) Homepage
      I'm not certain, but I suspect that this is an instance of a relatively new field called "mesoscale physics". This deals with systems on scales between the atomic or single molecule level and the thermodynamic level. Quantum effects are significant, but not as dominant as in atomic (and smaller) physics, but you don't have the advantage of having enough particles to use average statistical behaviour in place of a complete description (ie no thermodynamic limit). It is very very difficult, and it is only recently that we have the tools to begin tackling these sorts of problems. We had one faculty member working on this in my department, but she has recently departed for another university.
    • Wasn't the whole point of the whole quantum mechanics thingie that you cannot measure things this precise?

      No Fair! You changed the outcome by measuring it.
      - Prof Farnsworth, Futurama

  • So is he saying if we better understand why some things disolve in water (and particular interest, water in our blood stream) and why some don't we will better handle diseases?
  • Man. (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Pojut (1027544)

    I fucking love living in "the future".

    • I wish I could, but no matter how long I wait, it's always the present.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Or they could unlock the secret of creating Ice 9.

    We are all doomed!

  • And freeze all the worlds oceans. Kurt Vonnegut could not be reached for comment, because he is dead.

  • Hmm... (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by roggg (1184871)
    Homeopathy FTW?
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:36PM (#31319642)

      I'm sure someone will say it more seriously than you are, so let me just point out right away, the structures that the scientists are describing are fleeting, lasting for billionths of a second before breaking down and reforming with different water molecules. In short, even if the structure of these bonds could effect the body (and that's a big if), you'd have to deliver the water to the problem area within a billionth of a second for it to do anything.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The idea here is that if you understand the nitty-gritty details of how hydrophilic and hydrophobic interactions work you could improve how we understand protein folding. Protein folding is an area of biochemistry with no really good models, because it's so complicated. I'm not sure these structures will do much to help us understand protein folding, but if they did it would increase biomedical understanding by a huge amount, as well as opening up possibilities in biocatalysis.

        In short, even though the st

        • by Rutulian (171771)

          I'm not so sure about that. Protein folding is mostly a computational problem. Simplifying the computation is what will be needed to improve those models. Maybe this will help, but I'm not sure. It sounds like it might actually make the computation more complicated, which definitely won't help.

      • I'm sure someone will say it more seriously than you are, so let me just point out right away, the structures that the scientists are describing are fleeting, lasting for billionths of a second before breaking down and reforming with different water molecules. In short, even if the structure of these bonds could effect the body (and that's a big if), you'd have to deliver the water to the problem area within a billionth of a second for it to do anything.

        Yeah, but aren't we dealing with a pseudo-science that

    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Lil'wombat (233322) on Monday March 01, 2010 @03:10PM (#31320154)

      Maybe. Check out this explanation:

      http://www.howdoeshomeopathywork.com/ [howdoeshom...hywork.com]

  • by line-bundle (235965) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:35PM (#31319610) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps this might lead to finally finding a cure for http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html [dhmo.org]

  • The Cancer card... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    When in search of funding, linking your research to cures for cancer increases your odds of funding approval.

    • by robotkid (681905)

      When in search of funding, linking your research to cures for cancer increases your odds of funding approval.

      If you RTFJA (journal article) the authors make no claim of applicability to cancer research. That's just a weird tack that a misguided science journalist at Science Daily decided to take with it. Many, many people have been studying water using similar methods for decades. "So how will this cure cancer ?"

      " Um, . . we're simulating the structure of supercritical water and. . "

      "Does cancer have water?"

      "Well, yes, but. . ."

      "Got it, you're curing cancer! Awesome"

  • Has anyone mentioned ice-9 yet?

    That could solve a few problems.

  • We could save ourselves some time and just ask the sea creatures at the bottom of the ocean how they do it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by H0p313ss (811249)

      We could save ourselves some time and just ask the sea creatures at the bottom of the ocean how they do it.

      Deep sea creatures do it under pressure [wikipedia.org].

  • Please (Score:4, Funny)

    by tsa (15680) on Monday March 01, 2010 @03:05PM (#31320088) Homepage

    ...could lead to solving some of the world's most tricky problems from agriculture to cancer.
     
    Please please PR people, come with something more original next time. The solving cancer thing is so old, nobody believes that anymore. And I never knew agriculture was a problem.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rodarson2k (1122767)

      It also bears mention that when you're making nonsensical claims about things that you fix, you are supposed to choose "from A to Z", not "from A to C". Even if cancer is more widely feared than zoonotic disease.

  • Since biological processes (and I mean all of them from the molecule level to the baby-making level) depend on temperature, it is obvious that knowing how water works at this molecular level can in fact solve many variability in medicine.

    If you think about it... our body maintains itself at a constant temperature as much as possible... there's a reason for that... for the biological processes within the body to react efficiently.

    This can lead to different types of medicines that are most effective at certai

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday March 01, 2010 @03:08PM (#31320128)
    ... the behavior of H2O - C2H5OH solutions. Please expedite. I'm making a run for supplies ASAP.
  • "Understanding hydrophobicity, and how different conditions change it, is probably one of the most fundamental components in understanding how proteins fold in water and how different biomolecules remain stable in it," says Kumar.

    When asked by a reporter, Kumar said the idea came to him while hitting the bong.

  • We need more grant money or we'll have to get real jobs.
    • by copponex (13876)

      Yeah. Fuck "research" about "diseases" or whatever. What we need is more baristas at Starbucks. I actually had to wait last time.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday March 01, 2010 @03:30PM (#31320448)
    Polywater [wikipedia.org] was the "cold fusion" of the 1960s. There is a new age fad called structured water [greenplanetparadise.com]too.
  • Polywater (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tomhudson (43916)

    What I find interesting is that this opens up at least the possibility of that old sci-fi standby (really old - I haven't seen a reference to it in modern sci-fi) of polywater.

    Polywater is supposed to be one of those "unobtaniums", theoretically impossible - but then again, bees have been "proven" not to be able to fly.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Opyros (1153335)

      bees have been "proven" not to be able to fly

      Well, not exactly. [paghat.com]

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        bees have been "proven" not to be able to fly

        Well, not exactly.

        Why do you think it put "proven" in quotes? Because " I " like " using " quote " characters " or " s"o"m"e"t"h"i"n"g" """?

        I know, you're just bugging me, right :-)

        I knew that when I brought up polywater, I'd get a mini-tsunami.

    • by maestroX (1061960)

      What I find interesting is that this opens up at least the possibility of that old sci-fi standby (really old - I haven't seen a reference to it in modern sci-fi) of polywater.

      Polywater is so last century ... cat food [wikipedia.org] is the future!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by c6gunner (950153)

      Polywater is supposed to be one of those "unobtaniums", theoretically impossible - but then again, bees have been "proven" not to be able to fly.

      People like you make my head hurt.

      It's just mind-boggling to me that such an obvious and completely asinine urban legend is STILL being repeated some 70 years after it was first invented. I can understand young children repeating everything they're told ... but judging by your user number, you're probably older than I am. Stop and think before you speak!

      What I find interesting is that this opens up at least the possibility of that old sci-fi standby (really old - I haven't seen a reference to it in modern sci-fi) of polywater.

      No, it doesn't. As Feynman said, if pollywater were possible, we'd have an animal that doesn't eat. It would just drink normal water and excrete polywat

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        but then again, bees have been "proven" not to be able to fly.

        People like you make my head hurt. It's just mind-boggling to me that such an obvious and completely asinine urban legend is STILL being repeated some 70 years after it was first invented. I can understand young children repeating everything they're told ... but judging by your user number, you're probably older than I am. Stop and think before you speak!

        Why do you think I put "proven" in quotes? Trying to score cheap points by demonstratin

        • by c6gunner (950153)

          Why do you think I put "proven" in quotes?

          I dunno - 'cos lots of morons misuse quotation marks?

          Animals eat for more than just energy.

          Yeah, that's OBVIOUSLY because they don't have Magic-Water (tm). Sheesh. Don't you know anything?

          People used to think that solids could only shrink when compressed. We now have solids that expand under pressure. Things change as our understanding of the universe changes.

          Yeah, that's the standard woo-woo response, so I'll ignore it.

          Again, according to yours (and Feynmans) beliefs, I should be okay to eat gasoline - after all, it's got more energy than the salad I had at supper.

          Obviously you have no idea what either I of Feynman were saying. I don't give a shit what YOU eat for supper - the fact of the matter is that, since oil is a source of energy, there should be species out there which can eat oil. And guess what: THERE ARE.

          Feynman also believes there's only one electron, one proton, and one neutron in the whole universe, and they cycle back and forth in time - we see a cross-section of those multiple paths as our current universe. Do you buy that too?

          Feynman is dead, so I very much doubt th

          • by tomhudson (43916)
            What a moron.
            • by c6gunner (950153)

              Coming from a twit who's trying to convince me that magical water can solve our energy issues? Heh. What can I say. Thanks? Don't forget to tip your homeopath!

              • by tomhudson (43916)
                Never said that, idiot. And no, I don't believe in homeopathy either.

                Do you always try to win arguments by sticking words in other peoples mouths, liar?

    • What I find interesting is that this opens up at least the possibility of that old sci-fi standby (really old - I haven't seen a reference to it in modern sci-fi) of polywater.

      How?

      Polywater is supposed to be one of those "unobtaniums", theoretically impossible - but then again, bees have been "proven" not to be able to fly.

      Do you even know the story about Polywater. It's not a theoretical anything. The idea came about because of shoddy experiments that introduced contamination. It really does boggle the mind how stupid ideas can persist in peoples minds and continue to be regurgitated.

      Read about it [wikipedia.org].

      • by tomhudson (43916)
        Those who don't know history are doomed to misquote it from wikipedia.

        Polywater was a plot device in a "golden-age" science fiction story. That's WAY before the first use mentioned in the wiki.

        Where do you think they stole the term from?

        It did not, as the wiki claims, originally come from shoddy experiments. The original story had a scientist polymerize water, which was great - until it started polymerizing all the water it came into contact with. This story predates, and also foreshadows, modern-da

  • To use this research for water and wastewater treatment, the basis for civilization. For instance, chlorine is used to disinfect water but is not 100% effective. Chlorine leaves behind disinfection by-products which are a common cause of taste and odor problems in municipal water supplies. The EPA says there must be a chlorine residual of 5mg/L at the farthest point in the distribution system. Chlorine combines with many organic molecules to form carcinogens, (chloramines). Chlorine is not needed after it l
  • by TeethWhitener (1625259) on Monday March 01, 2010 @04:22PM (#31321268)

    Seriously, how did this get on the front page? I suppose it's an interesting article, to theoretical chemists, but that's about it. Here's [pnas.org] the paper from PNAS (heh).

    You may notice a few things if you read it. First, it's an MD (molecular dynamics) simulation. Read: classical equations of motion with an empirically-derived force field (just to head off the quantum gibberish). Second, you'll notice that the paper doesn't mention anything about agriculture or cancer (or much in between), but instead seems to focus on topics as vital to our way of life as orientational entropy and the Widom temperature of water. Third, if you read the last few paragraphs (if you can make it that far), you'll see that a referee brought to the authors' attention that the work presented in their paper had essentially already been done about 15 years ago. Fourth, and perhaps most telling, is that this study is published in PNAS. This journal has an interesting quirk in that if you're a member of the Academy, you get to choose who referees your paper. Trust me, I've seen first-hand how some ancient Academy members use this policy to publish some serious garbage in that journal.

    Now I'm not saying that Kumar et al's paper is not an important contribution to the field of theoretical water chemistry. I am, however, saying that it's not nearly interesting enough to be on the front page of Slashdot. Not sure why ScienceDaily picked it up either. I keep telling myself that when I have time, I'm going to start a lit review blog in this field so that the general (geeky) public has a little better handle on the stuff going on in physical chemistry that's actually interesting. Well see if it ever happens.

    • by robotkid (681905)
      Mod parent up. IAACBP (I am a computational Bio-Physicist) and although I find this paper interesting, why Science Daily chose to feature this particular PNAS paper is not readily apparent to me. Even with its quirks (indeed, the paper was direct submitted by the last author, a PNAS member, and therefore did not undergo the standard peer review process as hinted by the parent) there are many, many other neat findings in PNAS that would have made much more interesting subjects for a sciencedaily article,
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rutulian (171771)

      Seriously, how did this get on the front page?

      It's because a lot of people really want to believe in homeopathic medicine, even though it completely contradicts most of our current scientific models. If there is any possibility that "water has memory" people will jump on it....

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Agree with you on PNAS - they're generally considered a top-tier journal with the exception of anything written by NAS members. So, the irony is that the articles written by no-names in that journal are often the better ones. That isn't to say that NAS members can't write good stuff - only that skipping the review stage allows them not to in some cases.

      That said, water structure is an interesting topic. I had a professor in college going back 15 years that was doing work in this area. The college didn't

  • every water molecule fleetingly interacts with its four nearest neighbors, forming a tetrahedron

    So that's why I haven't cured cancer yet- I didn't realized the tetrahedrons in water need to have five points!

    • The tetrahedron has a center, dumbass.

    • by robotkid (681905)

      every water molecule fleetingly interacts with its four nearest neighbors, forming a tetrahedron

      So that's why I haven't cured cancer yet- I didn't realized the tetrahedrons in water need to have five points!

      The water model consists of 5 points. You could think of it as one for each of the (2) hydrogens, one for the oxygen, and two for the lone pairs that cause water to be V-shaped instead of linear. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_model#5-site [wikipedia.org]

  • Why they must deeply desire to understand what water does, right? Unless of course they know their 'science' is bogus.
  • I struggled through the article (I'm not a physicist although I studied lots of Physics 35 years ago), and realized I was able to understand it because I twice struggled through reading R. Buckminster Fuller's, "Synergetics" Vols I and II. His key point on systems practically begins with a tetrahedron http://www.rwgrayprojects.com/synergetics/s04/p0100.html#402.00 [rwgrayprojects.com] , but his description of close-packing atoms and molecules is pretty vivid.

    (Anyone trying to visit the site above: Do not be discouraged. It is f

  • "...to improving chemotherapy drugs whose side effects arise from their solubility or insolubility in water."

    This is absolutely not true. The side effect is inherent to the molecular structure of the molecule, not its solubility or lack thereof. (If it's insoluble it doesn't get into the body, and hence doesn't have a side effect... but then it has no effect at all.)

  • This article on Homeopathy was posted last week, who was checking submissions?

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