Structures

One of my goals with this blog, is to try to help demistify the processes involved in the synthesis of molecules by biological organisms. Chemists have developed an incredibly complex visual language for depicting molecular structure. For us, reading these images is second nature, but in my experience, the fastest way to confuse an audience while doing science outreach, is to show a molecular structure using our visual language.

There are excellent reasons for the complexity of this language. For those who speak it, it is able to communicate very accurate and detailed information about molecular structure. But for those who don’t, it can be overwhelming.

And I think that it’s a shame that this language is overwhelming, because biochemical processes are just fascinating.

I am not trying to develop a visual language that is as complex or detailed as the one that we already have. Rather, I want to find a way to describe biochemical processes by use of metaphor. I’m sure that the details of my visual language are going to need some improvement over time, and I’d love to hear suggestions for how this might be done.

I would like to be able to show that much of the biological world is built from very simple, abundant components that all of us are familiar with.

Download (PDF, 36KB)

These components are in turn, made from simpler atomic building blocks. In the case of water, two hydrogens and an oxygen, for carbon dioxide, one carbon and two oxygens, and then confusingly, for nitrogen, two nitrogens, and for oxygen, two oxygens.

I hope that through metaphor, the way in which nature builds leaves, eyes mushrooms and toes from these building blocks, can be made more readily accessible, and that I might be able to relate some of the beauty and elegance that I can see in these processes to as wide an audience as possible.