Who says science is boring? Damian Allis, a theoretical chemist, has posted some very nice pictures of a diversity of molecules, including some that will look familiar to a biologist, and others that will look familiar to a molecular nanotechnologist.
How do you get a picture of a molecule, which is too small to see? You simulate it. These are not artists' conceptions. They are the result of detailed simulation of atomic interactions and bonding. The colors, of course, are chosen for artistic and explanatory value, but the positions are set by the simulation.
These simulations can tell us a lot about how molecules interact, and they're getting better rapidly: more precise, and handling more atoms. We're getting close to the point where we'll be able to simulate entire molecular machines and even systems of machines.
Of course, simulation without experiment is likely to drift far from reality. Thousands of experiments have gone into programming these simulations. Even so, simulations of diamond-bonded carbon may not be precise. Elsewhere on his site, Allis acknowledges that purists may not like his methods, and that his bond lengths may be wrong by as much as 0.01 Angstrom (1% the width of a single hydrogen atom).
But even with these caveats, it's good to be able to get an idea of the shape a molecular construct will take, and the interactions between shapes used as gears and bearings. As we learn more, we may have to tweak the designs, but we won't have to throw away the approach.
And it's good to be able to visualize the nanoscale based on accurate simulations. The colors are a nice touch, too.