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Monthly column for the arts

In my spare time I do cancer research. Not a lot of people know that I'm actually part of a worldwide team involved in an Oxford University project. It's run by an organisation called United Devices. What we do is 'help scientists characterise therapeutic targets and identify and assess drug candidates, by performing automated docking of flexible ligands to a protein's binding site'. We are a key part of current cancer re-search. And I don't even know what a ligand is, or where a protein keeps its binding site.

David Porter

Oh, all right, I'll come clean. This is an arts column. I've never met or talked with an Oxford cancer research scientist. Actually it's my computer that does the re-search. Every time it's turned on and I'm not using it - and that includes the fractions of a second between key strokes, as well as the prolonged pauses for thought and meditation that are such crucially important parts of a writer's work - the computer is doing cancer research.