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On Chirality and the Universal Asymmetry. Reflections on Image and Mirror Image

  • ID: 2183556
  • Book
  • June 2007
  • Region: Global
  • 256 Pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd
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Until half a century ago, it was assumed that the forces of nature were symmetric an that they did not distinguish between right and left, between image and mirror image. The discovery of the violation of parity in 1956 was more than a sensation, for some it was a shock. It implied that the universe displays handedness,or chirality, and that it is fundamentally asymmetric.

Remarkably, a most striking asymmetry is encountered in the realm of biology. Living organisms contain proteins build almost exclusively from L–amino acids, and nucleic acids derived from D–sugars only. Yet a mirror–image biochemistry, based on D–amino acids and L–sugars is, from a purely chemical standpoint, entirely conceivable. Where, then, does this extraordinary natural selectivity come from? Is it directly, or indirectly, connected to the universal violation of parity?

This boo is meant as a brief review of the various manifestations of handedness, or chirality, in the universe. It does not attempt to present a solution to basic questions which perhaps will never be unambiguously and conclusively answered. Rather, it is an excursion through nature, to observe and recognize how the chirality manifests itself at different structural levels. the excursion starts in the chemistry and physics laboratory. Then a journey into outer space and back in time is undertaken. After a return to out planet Earth, the focus is on the development of living organisms.

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1. Image and Mirror Image in  molecules.

2. The Violation of Parity.

3. Light, Magnetism, and Chirality.

4. The PT Triangle.

5. Journey into Outer Space.

6. Return to Earth.

7. Chirality at the Nano– and Micrometer Scale.

8. Chiral Models.

9. Pathways to Homochirality.

10. Prebiotic Evolution and Beyond.


Subject Index.

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Georges H. Wagnière
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