15 February 2016

Another UTRGV teachable moment

UTRGV tweeted this image from our Brownsville campus:

I’ve walked through this lobby a few times, but it never clicked that the spiral is supposed to represent DNA, the molecule of life. It is in the lobby of the Life and Health Sciences Building.

I realized there’s a problem.

The spiral is going the wrong way.

It’s twisting to the left (counterclockwise). DNA twists right.

It’s not the only problem with the image. The two strands of DNA are not evenly spaced, for one, but I am willing to let that one slide because of limitations of the medium (bricks and tile). But it would have been as easy to build it twisting the other way. Indeed, this seems to be such a common mistake that I wonder if there are more incorrect depictions than correct ones out there.

I knew that DNA strands have a particular direction. Pretty much all biological molecules are “handed” in some way. But I am not a molecular biologist, and was never able to remember which was the right way around. Thanks to this pillar, I’ll probably never forget now. Even it that knowledge is tinged with a little embarrassment that a new research university is displaying something factually wrong.

External links

DNA's twist to the right is not to be meddled with, so let's lose the lefties 
Graphic design, error, and accidental learning

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