Alien Planet Where Hyper-Intelligent Dinosaurs Rule, or Chemistry Joke With 2 Left Feet?

By Sarah Zhang | April 12, 2012 4:23 pm

cat
Moar nerdy chemistry humor?

In a press release roundly denounced by the interwebs, the usually respectable American Chemical Society writes that “advanced versions of T. rex and other dinosaurs — monstrous creatures with the intelligence and cunning of humans — may be the life forms that evolved on other planets in the universe.”

Um what? While our BS detectors just started blinking bright red, this press release is really a perverse kind of genius. When was the last time the science media lit up with a very technical paper on the origins of homochirality? (Before we get back to “advanced” dinosaurs, chirality refers to molecules that can exist in left- and right-handed forms; some organic molecules like DNA and proteins tend to be made of molecules only in one form. Why is that? This is an interesting question. It also has nothing to do with dinosaurs.)

Now the press release writer didn’t exactly pull the dinosaur reference out of nowhere, but the author of the paper did. After suggesting that early meteorites may have seeded a pre-life earth with chiral amino acids, Dr. Robert Breslow ends this paper with this flight of fancy:

An 
implication 
from
 this 
work 
is 
that 
elsewhere 
in 
the 
universe 
there 
could 
be 
life 
forms 
based
 on 
D 
amino 
acids 
and 
L 
sugars, 
depending 
on 
the 
chirality 
of 
circular 
polarized
 light 
in
 that 
sector 
of 
the universe or 
whatever 
other 
process 
operated 
to 
favor 
the 
L
α‐methyl 
amino acids 
in 
the 
meteorites 
that 
have landed
 on Earth. 

Such 
life 
forms 
could 
well 
be 
advanced 
versions 
of 
dinosaurs, 
if 
mammals 
did 
not 
have the good
 fortune 
to 
have 
the 
dinosaurs 
wiped 
out 
by 
an 
asteroidal 
collision,
 as 
on 
Earth. 

We 
would 
be 
better 
off not 
meeting 
them.

We’d like to point out that Dr. Breslow is a very distinguished chemist at Columbia, a National Medal of Science winner, and former president of the American Chemical Society—the very organization who wrote the press release and whose journal published his paper. As good as he clearly is at chemistry, we will refrain from judging his sense of humor.

This bit with advanced dinosaurs has nothing to do with chirality and doesn’t make much evolutionary sense either, which Brian Switek has very eloquently  broken down at Dinosaur Tracking. The lesson of all this is may be that if you want to get away with silly alternative history jokes, do it in a journal published by an organization you used to run.

[via KSJ Tracker]

Image via quickmeme

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Uncategorized
  • http://profile.yahoo.com/LCRQONDY3QDYYSB322XIWUEJJ4 HenryD

    Although if these dinosaurs tried to eat me, they couldn’t metabolize my L-amino acids and D-sugars.  I’d get the last laugh.  Ha ha ha.

  • Jim

    I love that!  Although I can’t say humor should be used in science journals often, it’s nice to see it’s not extinct!

  • semiinvitedguest17

    This is why scientists should be allowed to read / vet press releases written by the ignorant baboons who also go by the name of “press officers”. I can’t believe that Breslow intended his paper on homochirality to be known for this stupid attempt at humor.

  • C.R. Dawsey

    It sounds like the scientist was reading Harry Harrison’s Eden trilogy.

  • http://pennyrobinsonfanclub.net/ Penny Robinson Fan Club

    What a crock….

  • Wesleey

    It’s basically a brain fart, nothing to worry about. I’ve often wondered too what would have happened if the dinosaurs had been allowed to continue to evolve. What would the world be like now? And just when are we going to find life on other planets and see what it’s like? It’s taking FOREVER!!! lol

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