Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Crystal Power

Crystals have long been determined by morons and ren faire enthusiasts to have all sorts of magical powers. Wear one on a leather thong around your neck, and you'll focus all cosmic energy into your ego chakra, imbuing you with an almost preternatural sense of self-importance and a soft spot for velvet paintings of unicorns. For decades now, Japanese video game developers have been using crystals as plot devices: mystical treasures that young, androgynous, amnesiac protagonists can chase after while casting lightning spells on imps. Now, science has caught up to the wonderful world of crystals. Researchers at Imperial College London and Harvard University have created a crystal that allows them to see the entire three-dimensional structure of an enzyme called integrase, which HIV uses to copy its genetic information into infected hosts. This will allow scientists to create more effective integrase-blocking HIV medications. Unfortunately, these crystals are too small to encase in a swirly pewter fitting and sell in a booth next to the roasted turkey leg stand at a renaissance faire. More details here. (And thanks to Brad for the link!)