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X-ray Crystallography Without Crystals

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Science  23 Jul 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5427, pp. 509-511
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5427.509a

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In this week's issue of Nature, x-ray crystallographers report creating the first diffraction image from a noncrystalline sample, a feat that could revolutionize the imaging of the vast array of materials that cannot be crystallized, providing ultrahigh-resolution images of everything from cells to individual protein molecules. The researchers created an algorithm that is designed to extract an image from the fuzzy diffraction data produced by noncrystalline samples by first making a wild guess, assessing its accuracy, making adjustments, and then repeatedly trying again.