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No. 117: May-June 1998

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Terrestrial Life Is Ambidextrous

But only slightly so!

In SF#115, we asked whether right-handed organic molecules can be found in any terrestrial life forms. E. Clark answered as follows:

"D-amino acids [right-handed amino acids] do occur fairly often in bacterial cell walls and other microbial products such as antibiotics. When I was first introduced to this fact, I was intrigued and I wondered if the presence of D-amino acids in these large molecules might indicate that there was something special about the way they were synthesized -- perhaps, for example, that they essentially assembled themselves without the need of individual synthetic enzymes at each synthetic step."

(Clark, Ed; personal communication, February 28, 1998.)

Comment. So, right-handed molecules are not forbidden on earth, but we are still faced with that great preponderance of left-handed molecules. What "force" is at work here, or is this just the way things are? We should not settle for the latter interpretation.

From Science Frontiers #117, MAY-JUN 1998. 1998-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987