Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Meme That Took Me For A Ride...



Because I was sitting in the barbershop yesterday afternoon, I turned on the Twit thing and used if for more than chasing news for awhile.

And darned if @RobCottingham didn't suck me right in.

With something about Watson and Crick being as awestruck by their discovery of the Double-Helix as was that Yosemite Bear guy by his discovery of a Double-Rainbow in the sky.

And being the approximately 32.35875% pedant that I am, I couldn't stop myself from pointing out to Mr. Cottingham that Franny and Jimmy were over-the-moon precisely because they fully understood the significance of the perfect, stackable basepairs coiled into a DNA molecule's double-stranded phosphate-backboned rope ladder. In constrast, Hungry Bear was over-the-rainbow precisely because he kept wondering what his double-strand 'Really, really means?' man.

Which, of course, was very different than young Johnny Lydon et al. really meanin' it man when they dissed the Queen about halfway back back down the time tunnel towards 1953.


And, now.....

This is the part where we eschew things multimedia and go right to the small, fire-hardened golden nugget of the thing.

And to do that all you really have to do is have a look at Watson and Crick's original paper in Nature.

Which, itself, is a thing of beauty and elegance that changed the study of life forever in just one single printed page.

And as for that bit about them being awestruck?

Well, it comes in just one sentence of pure, unadulterated understatement right near the end that goes like this:

"It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material."

Incredible that, really, because in that single sentence they are saying that they realize that the double-stranded structure of the rope ladder means that when you unwind it and rip it open down the center you can make two identical new rope ladders based on the precise nature of the basepairing/rungs in the ladder. And therein lies the secret of heredity, from Mendel to Kary Mullis' midnight polymerase chain reaction run through the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Interestingly, Linus Pauling who tried to solve the structure before Watson and Crick, had it all wrong....He figured there were three strands of rope, which made no sense at all....Then again, Pauling didn't get to go to King's College London to see Rosalind Franklin's X-Ray Specs photo 51 (yes, 51!) that was the actual experimental backing for the symmetry of the double helix....But here's the real thing, it wasn't Franklin who showed Watson her unpublished photo.....And thus, in the end, she was scooped by her own data....Which was a real shame...Especially when Crick and Watson didn't make that very, very (as in explicitly) clear subsequently.



lenin's ghost said...

Sheesh! with a science geek exposes me to such blather but Ross, you be making my noodle computer ache, buddy!

RossK said...




You live with a science geek?

My condolences.