Thanks to everyone who took time to review this draft.
considering adding a community experiment-log sort of thing, where people can submit experiments to a log on a separate page. let me know what you guys think
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Also: You seem to have a few misunderstandings as to how DNA and genetics actually work.
How might I rewrite those bits to be more scientifically accurate?
Figure out a consistent molecular biology for your weird new nucleotide, or not use it. I am not sure it is even doing anything here other than extending conservation of WTF. I also have no idea how the chemistry of nucleotide base triples would even work, or why that would matter with protein synthesis anyway.
Nucleotide triples wouldn't work, at least not in anyway usable by life. But yeah Mf99k, don't just throw random science jargon around, because we've got a pretty good number of actual scientific professionals here who will pick apart these little inconsistencies and issues (read: I am a pedant and so are a lot of us).
My recommendation would be to become familiar with the subject you're writing about. When I write an article I fact check everything, and I do the same thing when I read other authors' work. It gets a little irritating, but I think it makes for better writing.
I don't know about it absolutely not working, if you used totally different bases (with more 3-D stereochemistry than our relatively flat bases) that could form trimers by hydrogen bonds I think there are probably theoretically possible geometries. It wouldn't have higher density as an information storage molecule, probably, because there would still be only one sense strand, although it might have better error correction (though it might just have more errors due to complexity; this is an information theory problem that I doubt is trivial to solve). It won't however be directly compatible with our protein synthesis mechanisms, although obviously codons are totally arbitrary and it could produce the same polypeptides as end products.
Oh, yeah, if you use different bases you could probably bang out something like DNA, but like you said, it wouldn't be compatible with replication/transcription/translation mechanisms as they exist in known life, and I'm fairly certain you could not construct a (suitably stable) triple helix with standard ACTG bases
part of the idea was that it wasn't stable, thus the metamorphosis, but I got rid of the paragraph about the chromosomes. I'm still trying to fix the other genetic bits.
I usually do fact check everything, I just got kinda cocky with this and didn't check as much as I should have.
and I'm fairly certain you could not construct a (suitably stable) triple helix with standard ACTG bases
Definitely not, the stereochemistry is all wrong. Nitrogenous bases are relatively flat because they are cyclic resonance structures. This is how nucleotide base pairing even works, more complex stereochemistry would mean more entropy, which is bad for lossless data storage.
part of the idea was that it wasn't stable, thus the metamorphosis, but I got rid of the paragraph about the chromosomes
It wouldn't be unstable, so much as impossible. You should take a quick look at the Wikipedia article on nucleobases and look how the base pairs form dimers by hydrogen bonds in a flat plane. There's simply no place for a third base to connect.
Actually, Triple helix DNA is a thing. There's a couple of ways it can work, the most common being non standard base pair linking. Pops up in a handful of transcription/expression processes in the wild, and there's groups trying to use it for DNA based computing, medications, and nanotech. Cool stuff.
genetically amorphous mockingbirds
Now, my highest level biology classes have all been 200-level undergrad classes, but this seems wrong. There were some other problems with genetics and DNA in the article, but someone else has already mentioned those, so I'll just stick to this particular example. I also would probably describe the birds differently than "genetically amorphous" to begin with. "Shapeshifting mockingbirds" doesn't really fit clinical tone well, but something similar tells the reader what the bird is doing better than "genetically amorphous" does.
All that being said, I absolutely love the imagery of birders getting into a fight over a shapeshifting bird, and a cassowary showing up on top of a telephone pole. This article definitely has potential, if you fix it up some more.
Could be improved, definitely, but upvoted for
A distressed birder called police regarding a cassowary on top of a telephone pole
and taking it in an interesting direction.
While I appreciate the excellent tone, the effort put into the science, and the above conversation Immensely (I actually said, "God I love this site," outloud and startled my wife while i read this thread), the item in question is a bird that becomes other birds. While it is anomalous, it evokes a shrug from me. Don't be discouraged, though. A different idea presented with your attention to detail and understanding of the tone will be very successful.
I like it. The basic concept is more interesting for its consequences than its description, and the tag provides a hook for a larger story- on its own, this is a bird that turns into other birds, no big deal, but when you realize that someone made it and we have no idea why or how many… that's something to think about.