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Apr 11

Taking a dinosaur’s name in vain.

by Mark | Categories: chemical biology, opinion, science news | (19876 Views)

This is my first post here so imagine my excitement when I came across this attention grabbing title from the JACS press room “Could “advanced” dinosaurs rule other planets?”. Something cool to write about on my first day! Excellent.

So of I trotted to look at the paper that was the bases of the press release. It has the more mundane title “Evidence for the Likely Origin of Homochirality in Amino Acids, Sugars, and Nucleosides on Prebiotic Earth”.

What’s this got to do with dinosaurs I thought? Best delve a little deeper into the paper.

The paper describes how the homochirality of sugars and amino acids in life on Earth may have originated from a small excess of L-amino acids and D-sugars in meteorites.  These then seeded early life, leading to their near total dominance in life as we know it.

Sorry, still no idea what this has to do with dinosaurs. The paper is pretty interesting in it self, but I still don’t get the press release. I’d best read a little further .

Ahh, it turns out that astronomers think that neutron stars may act like cyclotrons and produce circularly polarized light. And if this light has enough energy it could account for the deracemization of amino acids on asteroids.

Still no dinosaurs.

OK, maybe the link with dinos will be clearer in the conclusions.

“An implication from this work is that elsewhere in the universe there could be life forms based on D amino acids and L sugars depending on the chirality of circular polarized light in that sector of the universe …”

Wow, that’s pretty cool (no Dinosaurs though), but it goes on..

“ Such life forms could well be advanced versions of dinosaurs, if mammals did not have the good fortune to have the dinosaurs wiped out by an asteroidal collision, as on Earth”.

WHAT! THAT’S IT! Can somebody please explain to me how we get from homochirality of life to that!

Is it just me or does this smack of blatantly sticking an irrelevant reference to dinosaurs in the conclusion in an attempt to get some press coverage?

Maybe we could all try it. Here goes, the new conclusion from my last paper.

“In contrast, conventional NMR spectroscopy would require several months to collect the same quantity and quality of data. This massive boast in NMR signals could one day mean that we will be able to collect NMR spectra of scarce dinosaur proteins”

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  1. See Arr Oh

    Great first post, Mark!

    A quote from my forthcoming ‘Annals of Sciencey Science’ – “One day, we might actually be able to extract blood from a mosquito trapped in amber. Bingo! Dino-DNA.”

    (Wait, no, that’s Jurassic Park…)

  2. Curious Wavefunction

    I don’t actually have a problem with the dinosaur “joke”. It’s a lame attempt at humor (allowed only because the author is Breslow) and should not detract from the mechanism of homochirality transfer illustrated in the paper which is actually quite neat. The self-plagiarism is the real problem.

  3. Mark

    I agree the paper is pretty interesting. And if the dinosaur reference was just a poor joke then I wouldn’t really mind either. But I do have a problem with it then being used in press releases where it wasn’t at all apparent that it was meant as a joke.

    As for recycling the article, that really is beyond the pale. I wonder if JACS was aware of it?

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