Dining in a Looking-Glass Universe

Pity (or envy) poor Alice. In one book she falls down a rabbit hole. When she gets to her feet, she finds bits of food that demand to be eaten (“Eat me!”). And in the next book she steps through a looking glass only to find everything reversed. What is a girl to do?

Well, one thing scientists have always thought is that Alice should not eat any food while she visits the looking-glass universe. All of the protein in Alice’s body is built from single enantiomers of chiral amino acids. This means these proteins, including her digestive enzymes, exist as single enantiomers, and they wouldn’t be able to digest the mirror-image proteins that get cooked in a looking-glass kitchen. Worse, if she did eat looking-glass food, she might get a terrible stomach ache, and would definitely starve. According to the traditional view, there just isn’t any biological value in looking-glass amino acids. A new study, however, turns this view on its head. If you would like to read about this, check out “Expanding Functionality Within the Looking-Glass Universe” (News Perspective, Science, 18 September 2009, 325, 1505-1506).

This entry was posted in Post-lecture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.