ABOUT COMPUTER MODELING: Computer modeling is used to represent the structure and appearance of both static objects, such as building architecture, and dynamic situations, such as a football game. With Foldit, game players have the opportunity to use a computer model to test the benefits of changing the structure of a protein. Foldit and other computer models can provide cutaway views that let users examine aspects of an object that are invisible even to the most powerful microscopes, as well as visualization tools that can provide many different perspectives. Computer models enable users to run companies and civilizations, fight battles, and play football games.
COMPLICATED MOLECULES: Polymers are large molecules made up of long repeating chemical units joined together in a chain, like beads on a string. Biological polymers are among the largest and most diverse molecules in the natural world, often containing billions of atoms. Human DNA is a polymer that can be thought of as billions of beads on a string. Proteins are polymers made up of 20 different amino acids, and the solid plastics used in a broad range of consumer products are polymers made of various types of "monomers" or smaller molecules. When monomers link together to form a polymer, this process is called polymerization, but they don't always link together in straight chains of regularly repeating monomers. Secondary molecules called catalysts can coax monomers to link together in certain configurations, and also speed up reaction times. This is how most synthetic polymers are created.