Left or right? That is the question
First published 9 October 2012
Why are people born left-handed or right-handed, and why are there patterns in nature which are consistently biased either left or right?
These questions will be examined in James Cook University’s 2012 L.F. Power Lecture, which will be presented by JCU’s Distinguished Professor Richard Keene.
The L.F. Power Memorial Lecture is held in honour of the memory of Associate Professor Leslie Frederick Power, who is remembered for his many contributions to JCU and for his special interest in student affairs.
Professor Keene will present Left hand, right hand? A reflection on the symbolism and realities of chirality - or handedness - at the lecture later this month (October 17).
Professor Keene said it was a subject that had been topical throughout the ages.
“There is no inherent difference between the left hand and the right hand,” Professor Keene said.
“Yet the distinctions between ‘handedness’, or chirality, are marked in cultures throughout history to the extent that they have moral, religious, artistic and social importance.
“But in the natural sciences – in biology, medicine, chemistry, particle physics, meteorology for example – the difference is quite fundamental.”
For example, why do all snails have shells with right-handed spirals and why are human bodies symmetrical on the outside, but not on the inside? he said.
“Why are more than half of the drugs we use specifically either right-handed or left-handed in terms of their molecularstructure?,” he said.
“Why do cyclones spin clockwise in the southern hemisphere and tornadoes anti-clockwise in the northern hemisphere?”
Professor Keene said the lecture would take a somewhat light-hearted look at the strange pre-occupation with “right-handedness” in human history.
“I will also talk about the influence of handedness in art and perception, and at the origin and profound importance of chiral identity in the world we experience, in weather patterns, in plant and animal biology, in medicine and drug design or action and in chemical reactions.”
Professor Keene is a graduate of the University of Adelaide, and after postdoctoral fellowships at the Australian National University and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (USA), he was appointed to the Chemistry staff at James Cook University in 1978, where he is currently a Distinguished Professor.
His research interests centre around the geometry or shapes of molecules containing several metal atoms, with a particular attention to the effect of molecular geometry on electron transfer within such molecules, and the influence of geometry on their selective interaction with biological molecules.
He has published 160 journal articles,6 book chapters and has appetent on his present work on the selective toxicity of ruthenium(II) complexes to drug-resistant pathogens.
Professor Keene has received a number of national and international awards for his chemistry research, and has been a Fulbright Scholar.
He has spent periods as an invited Visiting Professor in the USA (Stanford University, University of North Carolina), U.K. (Oxford University), France (Université Louis Pasteur de Strasbourg and Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse), Japan (Osaka University, the Tokyo Institute of Technology), Switzerland (Université de Fribourg), Germany (Universtät Leipzig) and New Zealand (University of Canterbury, Christchurch).
He was awarded a Personal Chair by James Cook University in 1997, and a DSc by the University of Adelaide in 1998. His research has been virtually continually funded by the Australian Research Council since 1979, as well as receiving funding from other national and international agencies.
2012 LF Power Lecture
Left hand, right hand? A reflection on the symbolism and realities of chirality
Date: Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Location: Medical Lecture Theatre (Building 45) JCU Townsville campus
Refreshments provided, all welcome
For more information about the event, contact Mia-Bianca Vaudrey, Faculty Marketing Coordinator, on (07) 4781 4604 or 0457 509 601
JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175