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Entropy, a measure of the molecular disorder or randomness of a system, is critical to understanding a system's physical composition. In complex physical systems, the interaction of internal elements is unavoidable, rendering entropy calculation a computationally demanding, and often impractical, task. The tendency of a properly folded protein to unravel, for example, can be predicted using entropy calculations.

Now, a new Tel Aviv University study proposes a radically simple and efficient way of calculating entropy—and it probably exists on your own computer.

"We discovered a way to calculate entropy using a standard compression algorithm like the zip software we all have on our computers," explains Prof. Roy Beck of TAU's School of Physics and Astronomy. "Supercomputers are used today to simulate the folding or misfolding of proteins in diseased states. Our study demonstrated that by using a standard compression algorithm, we can provide new insights into the physical properties of these proteins by calculating their entropy values using a compression algorithm.

"Having the ability to calculate entropy meets an urgent need to harness the incredible power of computer simulations to address urgent, timely problems in science and medicine," Prof. Beck adds.

The research was led by Prof. Beck and conducted by TAU Ph.D. students Ram Avinery and Micha Kornreich. It was published in Physical Review Letters on October 22.

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