Kurioza naukowe / Scientific curiosities ISSN 1176-7545; rok VIII; No 1715
Jedno zdumienie dziennie...
Na marginesie deliberacji o roli palindromów w genetyce
jeszcze jedna sprawa warta jest uwypuklenia. Otóż oprócz
słów czy sekwencji palindromowych istnieją jeszcze
słowa czy teksty innego typu, które moim zdaniem,
podpadają pod pojęcie palindromów, ale nie są
omawiane przez najlepszych nawet palindromologów. Nie
mają też, o ile zostałem poinformowany, swojej nazwy,
choć moim zdaniem na to zasługują.
On the margins of deliberations on the role of palindromes in genetics there is yet another matter which is worth filling out. Besides the ‘words’ or palindromic sequences there exist words and texts of another type which, in my opinion, should be included in what we understand as the concept of palindromes, but which are not discussed by even the foremost ‘palindromists’. These, as far as I know, still lack a specific name, although in my opinion they deserve to have one.
I speak here about words such as ‘abut’, ‘tub’, ‘snap’, ‘mar’, ‘leer’. There must be many more of these, but I confess to being a complete illiterate in the hunt for palindromes or other sequences of this type. These are words which, if read ‘backwards’, make sense, although they mean something quite different (abut-tuba, tub-but, snap-pans, leer-reel, etc). As far as the density of information is concerned, such sequences constitute the most effective packaging of content with the minimum number of symbols. And there exist in biological arrangements situations where such packaging has many good points from the point of view of natural selection. In the case of the most minute organisms, the tiniest bacteria, and perhaps viruses too, in which every genetic ‘letter’ is important as far as the metabolic cost and the space it occupies, the opportunity of enciphering ‘backwards and forwards’ of quite different but vitally important information, would be a great thing. Let us imagine that on one nucleic thread is enciphered the synthesis of, for example, a catalase while the same sequence, read backwards, would spell out the code for some peptidase. In such a case the apparatus which would decipher the genetic text has only to know where is the start of the given text and the synthesis can proceed according to two prescriptions written with the one genetic sentence. In a word, a 50% saving. The synthesis of nucleitic acids is a costly process, and makes much sense in the case of minute organisms.
Writing this I am in a quandary. Once, when I was still a student, and when there was much enthusiasm following the discovery of genetic codes, there appeared a small paragraph in ‘Naturwissenschaften’ announcing the discovery of such a two-directional sequence. Unfortunately, I did not make a careful note as to ‘who’ and ‘what’, and then my efforts became directed along a different track. But it created on me such an impression that the matter became fixed in my memory for tens of years. I do not know now whether this information has been ever confirmed, or whether the subject matter died down in the press of more important researches. I have found no references in ‘Biological Abstracts’, and this occurred a long time before Google! (I would be very grateful for any information on the subject if anyone happens to possess any). In any case this type of palindrome should be described and given a name; it is sure to exist in the languages of all cultures, even if it is not found in biological sequences.
One dreams about the creation of a text which, read one way, would spell out the meaning of Christian philosophy, and when read backwards, the meaning e.g. of Muslim thought. What a field would then open before us for collaboration in this sensitive area!