Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Pathogen opera

A friend sent me this item about something that works even better than antibiotics: pure physics! Since viruses aren't "alive" as far as we know, one can't technically "kill" them.
All objects have resonant frequencies at which they naturally oscillate. Pluck a guitar string and it will vibrate at a resonant frequency.

But resonating can get out of control. A famous example is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which warped and finally collapsed in 1940 due to a wind that rocked the bridge back and forth at one of its resonant frequencies.

Viruses are susceptible to the same kind of mechanical excitation. An experimental group led by K. T. Tsen from Arizona State University have recently shown that pulses of laser light can induce destructive vibrations in virus shells.

"The idea is that the time that the pulse is on is about a quarter of a period of a vibration," [Otto] Sankey said. "Like pushing a child on a swing from rest, one impulsive push gets the virus shaking."

That the virus isn't made up of just one type of atom does complicate things. But that is what computers are for.

1 comment:

Marie N. said...

Fascinatng! But what do the pulses of laser light to to surrounding tissue I wonder.