What computors are good for

I came across this paragraph in the reading for the quantum mechanics class I’m taking, and I think it needs to be shared with the world:

“A great deal of computation is required to perform a Hartree-Fock SCF calculation for a many electron atom. Hartree did several SCF calculations in the 1930s when electronic computors were not in existence. Fortunately Hartree’s father, a retired engineer enjoyed numerical calculation as a hobby and helped his son. Nowadays computers have replaced Hartree’s father.” Quantum Chemistry – Ira Levine

This makes me picture a little old man sitting in a room with all the world’s physicists and chemists sending him equations to solve.

Though more seriously, things like this make me appreciate the tools we have available now. I don’t think I’d be able to handle the things we’re covering in this class if I didn’t have a computer program to do the math for me. A similar feeling goes with a lot of the other things we use in the lab all the time. I just got a new plasmid a little while back that I need to make some point mutations then insert it into a new construct, then I’ll be expressing a human protein in E. coli. IT wouldn’t have been too long ago that just doing that part would have been a serious research project. Now, though the practical aspects are making me jump through some hoops right now, the concepts are fairly trivial and taught to undergrads. Sometimes it’s too easy to take some of the things we use constantly for granted.

Leave a Response (or trackback on your own site)

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Welcome to Paradoxdruid's Rants... a community based webblog. Feel free to snag an account and post.

Contributors Login


My first first-author paper!

Just wanted to share that my first first-author paper is now online! In the journal Stem Cells and Development, here’s my paper on “Roles of Integrins in Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Growth on Matrigel and Vitronectin.”

The Future of Scientific Publishing

Just read a fascinating (if lengthy) essay on disruptive technology and the future of scientific publishing. Well worth the read!


Just wanted to share Mint.com’s Visual Guide to Deflation, which is quite explanatory.

All Things Stem Cell

Hey all Paradoxdruid readers! I recently started up a blog on stem cells that I’d love you all to take a look at: http://www.allthingsstemcell.com/

Barely Literate: The Fermata

I participated in another Barely literate book review podcast, this time on Nicholson Baker’s “The Fermata”. Give it a listen!

Time for Change

Obama has outlined a strategy for America, in great depth. Read all about Change.gov!

Free Rice

Okay, I’ll admit that it’s entirely possible that I am the last person to learn about this website*, but it’s really addictive. 


Site best viewed in Mozilla Firefox. Site CSS template by Andrea Pitschmann. Banner photo by photocase.