Thursday, August 31, 2006

Science CD from atomic lab

A CD that will help students delve early and deep into the world of science has come from a US laboratory that played a key role in putting together the atomic bomb during World War II.

Scientists Pratul K Agarwal, 32, originally from the Indian Institute of technology (IIT) in New Delhi, has put together the 'Vigyan CD', which he calls a 'bio/chemical software workbench. With a doctorate from Pen State University, Agarwal is now with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, famous as an institution which played a key role in putting together of the atom bomb in the 1940s.

On its 1.2 mm thick disc of very pure polycarbonate plastic, at first the contents of Vigyan CD do not seem very impressive from outside. But Agarwal believes the tool would help youngsters have their first brush with a range of hi-tech tasks of a new century-gene sequencing, manipulation, molecular modeling and simulation and computational chemistry.

The CD runs on any reasonably new generation computer, and "comes with ready to use software with quick start instructions and detailed tutorials".

It has some additional tools, like Ghemical to create 3-D coordinates for a small molecule, or PyMOL to create "publication-quality" pictures of biomolecules, and more. Agarwal has put everything in one place and made it accessible in India.

"It has been designed to meet the needs of both beginners and experts", says Agarwal. Since such tools come under Free Software licenses, there is no cost or restrictions for distributing it.

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