Seminar catalyzed with reflection on chairality
By LeiLani Hector - Staff Reporter
Chirality is all around us, in- side of us and effects everything from how we perceive beauty to how drugs affect us, a Highline Chemistry professor said.
Dr. Aaron Moehlig kicked off the Science Seminar Series with his presentation titled: What is Chirality and How Did it Get in My Molecules? on Friday, Oct. 5. Science Seminar is a weekly series on all things science.
"A chiral object has a mirror image, such as our hand, that is not superimposable," Dr. Moe- hlig said.
A more scientific definition for chirality is the asymmetric objects in the world. For ex- ample, keys, phones, scissors, shoes, they are all chiral objects.
In other words, if the mir- rored object is placed on top of the non-mirrored object and it does not match, the object is chiral. If the mirrored object matches the original object when placed on top, the object is achiral, which is objects that are symmetrical, such as, a piece of paper, binder clips, and rubber bands.
"We see chiral things abso- lutely everywhere," Dr. Moehlig said.
Not only do we see chiral
things everywhere, we also see achiral objects everywhere be- cause "nature tends to make achiral things rather than hu- mans," Dr. Moehlig said.
The reason why humans create chiral objects is because "humans find beauty in sym- metry" he said. One of the very many chiral things that humans make are drugs.
Chirality in drugs is the same as everything else. Drugs need asymmetry in their formulas, to develop the correct formula to give to the world. Some chiral drugs include, Zyrtec, Ritalin, and Ethambutol.
But "when two chiral things interact, they need to make sense," Dr. Moehlig said.
For example, if two peo- ple were going to shake hands, one person's' left hand would meet the other person's left hand. In this way, the mirror image is different, and it still makes sense. If one of those people would have used their
right hand to shake a left hand, the mirror image would be the same, and the interaction would not have made sense.
But, situations like these usu- ally never come up because "We don't use the mirror image," Dr. Moehlig said.
Due to every living thing having the same double helix code, people all see the world the way it is right now, and not a mirror image of it. If things were to switch and the world
and everything in it would be- come the mirror image, people would all be disoriented and confused. But if someone grew up with their double helix going left, the mirror image would be normal, and what they see now would disorient them.
"There is no advantage to being right hand vs left hand in the beginning," Dr. Moehlig said about the double helix.
The only reason why the right-handed helix won rather
than the left-handed helix, was all because of chance and ran- dom mutation.
And although, the mirror image world is practically the same as the world we see now, adaptation to a new orientation would be hard due to every- thing being flipped around.
The next Science Seminar will be given by Dr. Eric Baer with his presentation on Geolo- gy Rocks! on Friday Oct. 12, in Building 3, room 102.