Chemists at Washington State University have come up with a way to use Google's PageRank algorithm to more accurately model water molecule behaviour.
Chemistry professor Aurora Clark and her colleagues Barbara Logan Mooney and L. Rene Corrales have documented their findings in a paper called moleculaRnetworks, published in the Journal of Computational Chemistry.
PageRank is an algorithm that Google uses to determine a site's popularity based upon the number of links to it from other sites and how influential those linking pages are themselves.
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Everybody needs good neighbours
Professor Clark's technique uses the same algorithm, but instead ranks water molecules by the number and strength of hydrogen bonds to neighbouring molecules.
At first that may not sound particularly important, but water is part of almost every biological reaction. A detailed understanding of water's behaviour could have an impact across a wide range of areas.
Better and safer drug design, as well as understanding protein misfolding (attributed to some degenerative diseases) are two such examples.
PageRank has already been used outside Google to analyse food chains and webs, on a quantum network and even to judge the importance of scientific journals themselves.