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Double-Helix Model of DNA Paper Published 59 Years Ago

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the still-awaiting-army-of-cloned-housecats dept.

Biotech 112

pigrabbitbear writes with musings on the anniversary of the groundbreaking paper on DNA structure by Watson and Crick. From the article: "Consider every organism that's ever lived on Earth. From dinosaurs to bacteria, the number is near infinite, and an overwhelming majority have their entire structures and lives dictated according to their DNA. The DNA molecule is life itself, and it's astonishing that we've only known what it looks like for less than a century. But it's true: In one of the most groundbreaking papers ever published, James D. Watson and Francis Crick described the double-helix structure of DNA in Nature, 59 years ago today."

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Why now? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551747)

Wait for a year and there is (a bit of) a story.

Re:Why now? (0)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551773)

Why would there be a bit of a story in a year? How is 60 years any more special than 59 years?

Re:Why now? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551813)

60 is a multiple of 10.

Humans have 10 fingers.

Re:Why now? (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552265)

Still not seeing the special. 59 is a multiple of 1. Humans have 1 of a lot more things than they have 10.

Re:Why now? (1)

Rhacman (1528815) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552453)

I think that is ACs point. The only thing that makes even multiples of powers of 10 special is due to our base-10 number system. Just don't tell the metric-system folks, thinking that 10 is special seems to bring them so much joy I'd hate to spoil it.

Re:Why now? (2, Interesting)

Unoriginal_Nickname (1248894) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552711)

Sorry to ruin your day, but our base-10 numeral system is literally the only thing us "metric-system folks" think is special about 10. At the very least, it's a damn sight more convenient than the base "width of thumb" and base "length of foot" that's prized by the knuckledraggers and mouthbreathers.

Re:Why now? (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553223)

If you're not man enough to handle the one true system of measure, the Furlong-Fortnight-Firkin system, that sounds like a you-problem. That system has some aspect that's convenient in any number system base!

Re:Why now? (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553563)

For three milliseventeenths of a ninety-seventh of a fortnight, I had no idea what you were on to.

Re:Why now? (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553719)

It took you 2.2 seconds to work out what he was talking about. If he were using metric you could have worked it out in 2.1 seconds (three millieighteenths of a ninety-sixth of a fortnight.)

Re:Why now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552467)

Humans count things with their fingers, not with their genitals.

Re:Why now? (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553731)

I can count the number of sexual partners I've had on my genitals. Does that count for anything?

Re:Why now? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554047)

I can count the number of sexual partners I've had on my genitals. Does that count for anything?

How does one count to zero?

Re:Why now? (1)

Barsteward (969998) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553265)

Think of it as an array of years, index starting at zero??

Re:Why now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553505)

Why you all downmod? This was mildly amusing

Re:Why now? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553217)

Mah paw has 7.681 fingers, you insensitive clod!

Re:Why now? (5, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552217)


60 years is exactly 1% of the age of the Earth. The perfect segue into exposing the lies of evolution!

Re:Why now? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552993)

Really? This needs to be explained?

Re:Why now? (3, Funny)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551793)

Really? What is so great about 60? At least 59 is a prime number...

Are you kidding? (5, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551997)

60 is a wonderful number [wikipedia.org] . It is both a unitary perfect number and a Harshad number. It's the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two odd primes in 6 ways. It has many nice geometric representations resulting from its highly composite nature.

Of course this is all redundant, because there is no such thing as an uninteresting natural number [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Are you kidding? (1)

stepho-wrs (2603473) | more than 2 years ago | (#39556809)

60 is divisible by 1,2,3,4,5,6,10,12,15,20,30,60. It's wonderful that it can be divided by so many commonly used numbers while still being a relatively low number itself.

Re:Why now? (1)

Cinnamon Whirl (979637) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552007)

Shold have done something in base-4, because, you know, there's four bases in DNA :)

Re:Why now? (3, Informative)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552121)

59 is 323 in base 4. Does that make it better? :)

(Mostly-irrelevant trivia: various modifications like methylation actually let DNA carry more information than just 2 bits per bp. A related molecule, RNA, has a large number of other special bases that are inserted to perform special functional roles, as well.)

Re:Why now? (5, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552567)

Less irrelevant trivia: As usual, everybody is getting all fuzzy eyed about Watson (who was a flaming asshole [smithsonianmag.com] ) and Crick (who was a really nice guy and the brains of the outfit). But it's easy to forget Rosalind Frankilin [wikipedia.org] who did much of the heavy lifting that Watson & Crick tend to get credit for.

As even they have said, once you see the structure, the general mechanism is pretty obvious.

Re:Why now? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553523)

Actually, sources say that Watson still is a flaming asshole, but I guess he was one then, too.

Re:Why now? (1)

neonfrog (442362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39555569)

The play Photograph 51 [npr.org] told me that story. Brilliant play. Try to see it if you can.

Re:Why now? (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552185)

Really? What is so great about 60? At least 59 is a prime number...

Not really. If you add them together you get 14, which isn't.

Re:Why now? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551857)

In ternary it's been 2012 years, which is the same as the decimal year CE. How often does that happen?

Rosalind Franklin (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551781)

Rosalind Franklin deserves credit. Shew as not the first to publish, but it was her data that Watson and Crick used and she had come to the same conclusion as they had.

Re:Rosalind Franklin (4, Interesting)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551833)

And therein lies the real charm of how this story is worded: the celebration is in favour of the publication of a description, not the discovery. The last link in the summary [vice.com] covers the controversy a bit; though it leaves out mention of the graduate student that Watson and Crick acquired to help them through the hydrogen bonding, the name of whom escapes me at the moment. (Anyone remember?) I always felt he deserved more credit than he got.

Re:Rosalind Franklin deserves no credit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552271)

Funny thing is that it was the grad student who realised that dried organic material (long and skinny) show the same molecular structure as a wet sample (which was short and fat); Rosalind Franklin ridiculed the grad student for suggesting this, the grad student went down the hall and talked to Watson and Crick who understood the implications of what the grad student was suggesting.

Rosalind Franklin may have been shown something, but she was too busy making fun of her own grad student to ponder the implications.

Jerry Donohue? (2)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552645)

. . . though it leaves out mention of the graduate student that Watson and Crick acquired to help them through the hydrogen bonding, the name of whom escapes me at the moment. (Anyone remember?) I always felt he deserved more credit than he got.
--

Perhaps you're thinking of Jerry Donohue [wikipedia.org] , the post-doc physical chemist?

Re:Jerry Donohue? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553487)

That would be the one. Somewhat more graduated than I remember, I must admit.

Re:Rosalind Franklin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557505)

Maybe I can shed some light on that.
Have you read the Watson and Crick papers? Out of three papers in question, they were main authors of first two, and in them little is said about double helix.

Only in third, where both of them are co-authors (first author was Marshall Warren Nirenberg), one finds helix description, and only after first two papers commented and to certain extent under attack by another paper, written by Hoogstein. Funny thing is, there is a consensus today that DNA is not symmetrical double helix, as W&C suggested. http://what-when-how.com/molecular-biology/hoogsteen-base-pairing-molecular-biology/

To conclude this comment, they did co-author the paper who incorrectly described results from other person, and we are supposed to praise them for that. Really?

Re:Rosalind Franklin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557541)

Sorry, I have a spelling error, it is Hoogsteen, not Hoogstein.

Re:Rosalind Franklin (1)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552447)

While it was clearly her data that they used, I've never heard any source state that she had already solved the problem of the exact structure of DNA. She probably realized that the crystal indicated a helical structure, but I don't think she knew exactly what it looked like or how it worked. So yeah, she deserved more credit then she received at the time, but I think it's possible to swing too far in the other direction, taking credit away from the guys who worked out much of the annoying details of the problem.

Re:Rosalind Franklin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552705)

She didn't probably realize it, but she did realize it. She knew quite a bit about its structure and details and not just a vague, "It's a helix" idea. Many people familiar with her work think she could have worked it out on her own. Watson and Crick would not have figured it out without her data. She was very methodical in her approach and wasn't making random guesses. Look into her MRC report.

Re:Rosalind Franklin (1)

whitesea (1811570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39556141)

While it was clearly her data that they used, I've never heard any source state that she had already solved the problem of the exact structure of DNA. She probably realized that the crystal indicated a helical structure, but I don't think she knew exactly what it looked like or how it worked. So yeah, she deserved more credit then she received at the time, but I think it's possible to swing too far in the other direction, taking credit away from the guys who worked out much of the annoying details of the problem.

There were other groups that were close to this discovery. Without Rosalind, one of those groups could be the first to figure it out and publish. Then nobody would have remembered Watson and Crick. They owe her their fame as first to the pole and for a long time they claimed she was totally irrelevant to their discovery.

Re:Rosalind Franklin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552517)

The other juicy story is Watson's later interaction with the Human Genome Project. One side of it (also confirmed by others in similar books) is presented in J Craig Venter's autobiography: A LIFE DECODED. My Genome: My Life. By J. Craig Venter.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/11/books/review/Dizikes-t.html

Much like corporate America, scientific discoveries are stolen, belittled, and entire research labs are demolished for the sake of politics and power.

Re:Rosalind Franklin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552905)

Her data revealed a helical structure, but she was in denial about it. Watson and Crick knew what she had and she did not. I dare say those who best interpret the data are more important than those who collect it. That you're wrong, Watson and Crick rightly deserved the credit.

Although I will admit, Rosalind Franklin deserved a lot more attention than she got. Her story is a sad one, but don't let empathy give away the store.

Re:Rosalind Franklin (1)

RollinDutchMasters (932329) | more than 2 years ago | (#39556291)

Rosalind Franklin has credit. Her paper [nature.com] is published in the same issue of Nature as the Watson and Crick paper, it's two pages away. She'd have shared the Nobel prize if she hadn't died before it was awarded. She got a bit screwed, but she's hardly the first academic you can say that about.

Watson: Still a Cunt (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551783)

I have yet to read a story about James Watson that does not reinforce my opinion that he is a real cunt.

Re:Watson: Still a Cunt (1)

Rhacman (1528815) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552903)

I tend to agree, however imagine where humanity would be if we had to wait for individuals with a 'pristine' sense of ethics and values to advance the course of human development. Personally, I think it is too often that we are told stories of the heroes / founding fathers in history that are bleached clean of the 'imperfections' that make/made them human.

Nowhere near infinite... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551791)

"From dinosaurs to bacteria, the number is near infinite..."

Pet peeve. No number that can be thought of is anywhere 'near' infinite.

Re:Nowhere near infinite... (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551805)

I suppose it's closer to infinite than, say, the color green is.

Re:Nowhere near infinite... (1)

smelch (1988698) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552219)

I disagree, as there are an infinite number of shades we would describe as green.

Re:Nowhere near infinite... (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553309)

Are there? Or is there some quantum limit on the number of discreet frequencies that EM radiation can take? I've wondered about that,

Re:Nowhere near infinite... (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554057)

Or is there some quantum limit on the number of discreet frequencies that EM radiation can take?

Yes, there's a limit on the discreet frequencies, but EM radiation is such of a gossip that it tends to leak just a few tiny secrets to its closest friends, as long as they swear never to reveal it to another living wavepacket, but omg you simply have to hear what just happened to Ultraviolet, it was an absolute catastrophe.

Re:Nowhere near infinite... (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39555529)

If you have that much fun with the minor typo in that post, you should read my whole posting history - you'll be in stitches! (Yes, I can't type for shit, and only see my errors after "Submit".)

Re:Nowhere near infinite... (1)

LoyalOpposition (168041) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552541)

No number that can be thought of is anywhere 'near' infinite.

As I understand it, programmers, mathematicians, and Isaac Asimov count 0, 1, infinity. That being the case, then, both 0 and 1 are near infinity.

~Loyal

Re:Nowhere near infinite... (1)

BluBrick (1924) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553181)

"From dinosaurs to bacteria, the number is near infinite..."

Pet peeve. No number that can be thought of is anywhere 'near' infinite.

Yes, in the domain of mathematics, the phrase "the number is near infinite" is nonsensical, but this is a report about a scientific event, it is not a scientific paper in and of itself. Clearly, the writer's intent was to convey an of the magnitude of the number.
.
.
.
You did get that, didn't you?

Re:Nowhere near infinite... (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553489)

Clearly, the writer's intent was to convey an of the magnitude of the number.

Well, sure, but this is /., which fancies itself a technically-oriented news site. In this context, calling a finite number "near infinite" merely makes the writer look dumb. You'd expect such metaphorical usage in the mass media. But lots of us here expect this site to be more accurate. Looks like we were wrong about that.

Maybe we should just start talking about building a successor to slashdot. Then we can let this site continue on its dumbing-down path. This wouldn't be the first time that the technologically literate have abandoned a site (or a publication) on such grounds.

Maybe someone is already working on this. Anyone have a good candidate?

Re:Nowhere near infinite... (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39555835)

The number, bless her soul, is standing just outside Hilbert's Hotel [wikipedia.org] and thus is near infinite when the first of coach carrying countably infinite people arrives.

And... (1)

fuocoZERO (1008261) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551815)

I bet everyone though it was an April Fools joke.

All thanks to LSD (5, Interesting)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551847)

Who knows how much longer it would have taken to discover if Crick wasn't tripping balls:

http://www.miqel.com/entheogens/francis_crick_dna_lsd.html [miqel.com]

Re:All thanks to LSD (1)

Rhacman (1528815) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552943)

...or sooner.

Near Infinite (4, Informative)

ooshna (1654125) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551863)

Consider every organism that's ever lived on Earth. From dinosaurs to bacteria, the number is near infinite, and an overwhelming majority have their entire structures and lives dictated according to their DNA

The number of organisms that ever lived is as close to infinity as the amount of protons in the cosmos. No where near to infinite at all.

Re:Near Infinite (1)

spads (1095039) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551987)

Agreed. That statement, actually nearer than near, is coincident with idiotic, and the article unworthy of its subject.

Re:Near Infinite (1)

kj_kabaje (1241696) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552241)

English majors and computer/science people don't always communicate the same way, do they? Though not "waxing poetic", I think it is a fair amount of "poetic license" to say near infinite. To keep on with my overuse of cliches, language is a bit more like horseshoes and hand grenades, isn't it? Plus, you weren't expecting scientific or mathematical precision from the Slashdot editors, were you? ;-)

Re:Near Infinite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552329)

Infinite means infinite. Not finite. I would hope that any English major should be able to understand the dictionary definition of such a common word. This isn't like "theory", where there are several different definitions used by different people.

Re:Near Infinite (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552303)

25 is as close as any number to infinity.

Re:Near Infinite (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552389)

The number of organisms that ever lived is as close to infinity as the amount of protons in the cosmos. No where near to infinite at all.

Therefore finite. And if we assume that all carbon based life forms variates by DNA, and if computer modelling can show each variation, then we will have a full blown 3D picture of each possible form. Not only that, we can also see how each form develops over time, life expectancy, illness and how environmental conditions affect it.
The long term goal is to prove that DNA is not Earth-centric, but universal in carbon based life. That means that we will be able to examine our alien friends even before we meet them!

Re:Near Infinite (2)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552835)

In science, there's a fancy term for this. It's called "large". Or, if you really need to, "very large".

Re:Near Infinite (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39555799)

Or doubleplusbig

Re:Near Infinite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553259)

Glad you said it so I didn't have to. However, subatomic particles are a bit trickier, as they might be 'existing' in more than one time/place at once.

Re:Near Infinite (1)

ooshna (1654125) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553955)

Unless they exist in an infinite amount of places at once they are still finite.

Re:Near Infinite (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553809)

Agreed, words mean things. They could have chosen a word which meant what they were trying to say, such as countless, or they could have tried to use 2 words, like "unbelievably large" but they chose to use some other word with a different meaning. They may as well have said:

Consider every organism that's ever lived on Earth. From dinosaurs to bacteria, the number is near banana, and an overwhelming majority have their entire structures and lives dictated according to their DNA.

Re:Near Infinite (1)

ooshna (1654125) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553967)

Whoa whoa whoa we all know banana is a measurement of volume not of amount.

And what about Rosalind Turner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551877)

She did all the x-ray crystallography that showed the structure. She should also get credit for the discovery of the structure. But because she was considered impersonable (to say the least), history relegates her to a footnote.

Re:And what about Rosalind Turner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552231)

I think Rosalind Franklin becoming a footnote had more to do with nobody knowing that they'd purloined her photographs and research to study, worked out the helix without her knowing she'd helped them, and then acted like her photographs only confirmed what they'd figured out themselves. And of course since the kind of studies she did with X rays killed her, she was dead and the Nobel prize is no longer given to dead people.

Impersonable may be how one justifies stealing someone else's work and taking credit for discoveries for it, but it's not the root cause of why she didn't get credit.

Re:And what about Rosalind Turner (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552631)

She did all the x-ray crystallography that showed the structure. She should also get credit for the discovery of the structure. But because she was considered impersonable (to say the least), history relegates her to a footnote.

Impersonable? In the same context as James Watson? The only people less personable that Watson are Idi Amin, Joseph Stalin and Hermann Goehring. Rosalind Franklin was the tooth fairy compared to James Watson.

Watson strikes me as a compulsive truth teller (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551893)

Sure his account is one-sided, but I don't think he's the type who would or could conceal vital facts about what Ms. Franklin did or didn't do sixty years ago that could have a bearing on credit for the discovery. Watson confirmed that he attended a talk given by Franklin where she presented an x-ray crystallography photo of DNA that seemed to indicate some sort of helical structure, but he says that Franklin insisted that there was no helix.

The relationship of Crick to Watson seemed similar to that between Shockey and Bardeen/Brattain for the invention of the transistor; the leader and driving force, vs. the one(s) who actually made the discovery.

Many years ago I attended a talk Watson gave about the discovery. When a woman asked the inevitable question in Q&A (everyone laughed nervously), Watson replied, "I think the reason Rosalind didn't make the discovery was because she wanted to do it herself, whereas Francis and I could bounce ideas off each other".

Was Watson really a jerk? (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551907)

The more I learn about Watson the more I'm inclined to believe he was a dick.

http://www.brown.edu/Courses/BI0020_Miller/dh/guide.html [brown.edu]

--
That cliche seems to be true here too "Behind every successful man ... is most likely a woman!" Hmm, Watson - check, Einstein - check, where is/was Newton's woman? =)

Re:Was Watson really a jerk? (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552309)

The more I learn about Watson the more I'm inclined to believe he was a dick.

I've never met him, but I've heard quite a few people - including some old-school molecular biologists, the kind that enjoy humiliating grad students during discussion sections or qualifying exams - express this opinion. Edward O. Wilson's autobiography, Naturalist, is also pretty uncomplimentary (they were faculty at Harvard together when Watson won the Nobel prize). Watson managed to piss off a great number of people during his scientific career.

Crick, on the other hand, seems to have been almost universally liked and respected.

Insensitive submitter (1)

AsciiNaut (630729) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551933)

Too soon.

"near infinite"? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551947)

"near infinite"? What, like infinity minus one or something? Perhaps the value was infinity's roommate once?

If every atom in the observale universe, in groups of 100 atoms, were part of of a new lifeform every second since the birth of the universe, that would only be 10^95 lifeforms.

(Pity the universe isn't five orders of magnitude bigger, then we could just freaking googol it.)

Wasn't there a woman scientist involved ? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#39551965)

Apparently there was some woman scientist involved in the breakthrough who did not get full credit and acknowledgment.

Re:Wasn't there a woman scientist involved ? (3, Informative)

TBerben (1061176) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552039)

You are correct. Rosalind Franklin [wikipedia.org] was the one who actually made and interpreted the x-ray diffraction images of DNA. Then her work was shown to Watson and Crick, behind her back, who published their model of the double helix and got famous.

Re:Wasn't there a woman scientist involved ? (3, Informative)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552229)

Rosalind Franklin [wikipedia.org] was the one who actually made and interpreted the x-ray diffraction images of DNA. Then her work was shown to Watson and Crick, behind her back, who published their model of the double helix and got famous.

This is basically correct, but I think that both the contribution of the diffraction images, and the degree to which Watson and Crick behaved unethically, tends to be somewhat overstated. Franklin actually published her results in the same issue of Nature as the double helix model. The main reason why this affair is remembered is because Watson published a rather uncomplimentary account of Franklin in his book The Double Helix (short summary: he thought she was a good scientist, but a raging feminist bitch). Franklin was at that point long since dead and could not defend herself. Watson also has a long history of pissing people off.

If nothing else, the real reason Franklin isn't more famous isn't that Watson screwed her: she died of ovarian cancer at age 37, four years before Watson and Crick won the Nobel prize (along with Maurice Wilkins, who really didn't deserve it).

Re:Wasn't there a woman scientist involved ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552343)

Funny thing is that it was her grad student who realised that the images of dried organic material (long and skinny) and wet organic sample (short and fat) showed the same structure; Rosalind Franklin ridiculed the grad student for suggesting this including writing derogatory comments on his notes , the grad student went down the hall and talked to Watson and Crick who understood the implications of what the grad student was suggesting.

Rosalind Franklin may have seen something, but she was too busy making fun of her own grad student to ponder the implications.

Re:Wasn't there a woman scientist involved ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552047)

Rosalind Franklin got the data, and W had (briefly) seen it. They screwed up big time and never got called on it until recent times.

Re:Wasn't there a woman scientist involved ? (1)

polo ralph lauren (2609061) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553829)

And therein lies the real charm of how this story is worded: the celebration is in favour of the publication of a description, not the discovery. The last link in the summary [vice.com] covers the controversy a bit; though it leaves out mention of the graduate student that Watson and Crick acquired to help them through the hydrogen bonding, the name of whom escapes me at the moment. (Anyone remember?) I always felt he deserved more credit than he got. POLO RALPH LAUREN >>Men Polo Ralph Lauren Shirts >>Women Ralph Lauren Shirts >>Kids Polo Ralph Lauren Shirts >> Polo Ralph Lauren Coats [wholesaleb...shirts.com] >>Polo Ralph Lauren Handbags >>Polo Ralph Lauren Hats/Caps More Polo wholesale products >> A & F ABERCROMBIE & FITCH >>Abercrombie & Fitch polo shirts >>Abercrombie & Fitch Bikini >>Abercrombie & Fitch Trousers >>Abercrombie & Fitch Handbags >>Abercrombie & Fitch Skirts >>Abercrombie & Fitch Hats/Caps

Re:Wasn't there a woman scientist involved ? (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554477)

therein lies the real charm of how this story is worded: the celebration is in favour of the publication of a description, not the discovery.

And this is normal in the reporting of scientific "discoveries", for a rather common reason: The story is about a years-long process, and there really wasn't a single "Eureka!" moment when it all became clear. Rather, the people involved gathered evidence by means of a lot of experimenting and measuring. Slowly, the picture began to emerge. Hardly anything has a specific date. But the publication of the result does have a date.

As others have explained here, an important part of the story was the X-ray imaging done by Rosalind Russell. But, while she had a good part of DNA's structure worked out, she explicitly rejected the double-helix when a student assistant suggested it, and was a bit secretive about her interpretation of her work. The (unnamed ;-) student took some of her results down the hall to Watson and Crick, who did some more analysis, and slowly came to the same double-helix model.

Actually, as they all understood (and most later writers don't), the double-helix shape was basically an irrelevant outcome of DNA's internal interactions; the important part was the encoding of linear strings of little chunks of information, and the two parallel complementary strands that allowed for easy copying. But that understanding came somewhat later, when the information-theory people got ahold of it.

So it's not surprising that news people and historians should pick the date of publication to calculate anniversaries (another irrelevancy that's an accidental result of our planet's exact orbit around one particular star ;-). That's a date that they can pin down. The dates of the many steps leading to it can't generally be determined with much accuracy.

Breaking News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39551977)

59 years ago and slashdot is just now reporting it?

i1nformati7e BITCHBITCH (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552003)

paperV 7owels,

Dont Forget the Phage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552037)

Phage deserves some credit too...i mean Phage are after all the most abundant lifeform on earth.

W&C`s experiments where only possible because of Phage Research.

Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552053)

"near infinite"?

59th anniversary?

April 25, 1953 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552073)

The original paper was published on April 25, 1953. Not April 2.

Wonderful understatement (2)

Jeff1946 (944062) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552299)

Near the end of the paper is this wonderful understatement: "It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material."

Right: pairing is crucial, helix not so important (1)

ODBOL (197239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552451)

Yes, it's the pairing of bases between strands, the freedom of ordering bases along each strand, and the implications for representing and copying arbitrary sequences of characters that are truly important.

For some reason the phrase "double helix" is always quoted. "Double" has some significance, but the helical shape is not particularly important. It's a natural result of the uniformity of the chain independently of the attached bases.

It seems that Watson and/or Crick understood what was important, but the biological community seemed to focus on the geometrical structure rather than the information processing capability.

The crucial quote from the Watson/Crick article (1)

ODBOL (197239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552487)

The sequence of bases on a single chain does not appear to be restricted in any way. However, if only specific pairs of bases can be formed, it follows that if the sequence of bases on one chain is given, then the sequence on the other chain is automatically determined. ... It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possibly copying mechanism for the genetic material.

Nature, number 4356, April 25, 1953, p. 737.

Jurassic Park came out almost two decades ago.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552457)

...fuck

DNA != life itself, though (2)

ODBOL (197239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552549)

From TFA:

The DNA molecule is life itself, and it’s astonishing that we’ve only known what it looks like for less than a century.

Sigh. No, DNA is not "life itself." It requires the copying mechanism and the interpretation mechanism. Even then, there is important life information carried in the immune state, and probably in other mechanisms that we haven't noticed yet.

"What it looks like" isn't really so important. The functional properties, in the complicated environment of a cell, are important. This quote from the Watson/Crick paper catches the important part:

The sequence of bases on a single chain does not appear to be restricted in any way. However, if only specific pairs of bases can be formed, it follows that if the sequence of bases on one chain is given, then the sequence on the other chain is automatically determined. ... It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possibly copying mechanism for the genetic material.

"What am I, an idiot?" (1)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#39552651)

My guess, the looming potential apocalypse towards the end of 2012 overrides any patience OP may have wanted to exercise in waiting for the big 6-0.

As an aside, if read without pauses or inflection, the subject line gives the same analysis as the body of this post C;

Is this the article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39552787)

That wasn't peer reviewed at all?

Eh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553139)

Someone mentions anniversary of important DNA paper.

Geeks rage over inaccuracy of cliche phrase "near infinite" by refusing to recognize commonly accepted non-math definitions for "infinite".

This is why we can't have nice things.

[insert rage comic faces as appropriate]

please... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553539)

[quote]"Consider every organism that's ever lived on Earth. From dinosaurs to bacteria, the number is near infinite..."[/quote]

Near infinite? What does that mean exactly? It's either infinite or it's not. You can't be "near" infinite. There's no such thing.

[quote]"... and an overwhelming majority have their entire structures and lives dictated according to their DNA."[/quote]

Ya, because environment and social circles have nothing to do with how their lives are dictated at all, right? And these things have no effect even on the structures of their bodies (i.e. how identical twins never look exactly alike no matter how similar their DNA).

Some of the "science" we hear these days sounds more like biased religion than facts. This sounds like it came right off the Discovery Channel.

Sadly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39555927)

Sadly, I bet more people believed the findings 59 years ago than believe them today.

I blame YOU Rick Santorum...as well as all Commodore and Amiga users...

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