What’s Wrong With The Double Helix

A few days ago, my copy of The Double Helix showed up in the mail.  I’d been wanting to read it ever since it was recommended in a video lecture by a geneticist at MIT.  For those of you that don’t know, The Double Helix is a book by James Watson, one of the discovers of the molecular structure of DNA.  It doesn’t look all that long, so I should be able to read it during my upcoming flight to New York via a 4 hour layover in Philly.  Anyway, the point of this post wasn’t to highlight my reading habits, since I doubt that anyone reading this actually cares.  I wanted to show the cover and see whether anyone else can see the inaccuracy in this picture.

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7 Responses

  1. I’m no bio expert but my gut reaction is that the nucleotide structure isn’t right. There are many more carbon atoms in there than shown, but they might represent the carbon/nitrogen rings with the black balls.

    Also I’d say pitch of the double helix is off. I doubt you’d have that many turns per length- seems a bit tight.

    But it’s a cartoon. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made pretty pictures for the cover pages of powerpoints to management that have zero to little relevance to the actual project on which I’m working.

  2. I was actually looking for something a bit more subtle. Even if the chemical structure with the bases were perfectly drawn, it would still be incorrect.

    The problem with the molecule is that the helicity is backwards. The helix is drawn with a left-handed orientation, which is wrong; DNA is right-handed.

  3. “…The helix is drawn with a left-handed orientation, which is wrong; DNA is right-handed…”

    Could it be that the molecular model is pictured upside down? They probably wanted the title of the book to be on the right side.

    • Nope. Even if you invert or rotate it, the helix will still be right-handed. Think of helicity like the threads of a screw, which will be either right-handed or left-handed.

      Now, if you were to take a helix and look at it in a mirror, then the helicity will be reversed.

  4. I’d dare bet that the cover artist was frustrated trying to fit the title and picture on the front, and not realizing just hit the flip picture/mirror button in Photoshop.

  5. that’s very good observation.One could also say that when one uses a screwdriver and turns the helix ACW,it moves towards the observer.

    • Yeah, I see helices drawn backwards all the time. I was at a medical school campus a few weeks ago and there was a poster for a meeting of some sort that had it reversed and I kept wondering why someone hadn’t scribbled something on it.

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