To the data cave!

A virtual reality environment reminiscent of the crime-fighting room in the Steven Spielberg movie, Minority Report could be used to help chemists uncover the necessary knowledge to design new catalysts, pharmaceuticals, polymers, and other products. "You could walk right up to this display and move molecules and atoms around to see how the changes would affect a formulation or a material's properties," explains chemical engineer James Caruthers of Purdue University. The method, called "discovery informatics, "enables researchers to test new theories on the fly and literally see how well new concepts might work in real time using a three-dimensional display.