Help me find elegance in science and experimental design.
October 31, 2011 7:53 PM Subscribe
What are the most elegant experiments in all of science?
posted by ghostpony to science & nature (34 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
Today I learned about the Meselson and Stahl experiment
that proved semi-conservative replication occurs in DNA. By growing bacteria in a substrate rich with heavier nitrogen isotopes, the scientists ensured that the bacterial DNA (which utilizes nitrogen in nitrogenous bases) would be heavier than similar DNA synthesized in a non-isotopic substrate. After the bacteria were removed from the heavier substrate and allowed to produce another generation in normal substrate, Meselson and Stahl found that the subsequently synthesized DNA was a hybrid of heavy/light. In subsequent generations, only one of the two strands would demonstrate this hybrid light/heavy characteristic, thereby proving that DNA synthesis was semi-conservative and that the parent strand is preserved. My biology teacher described it as one of the most beautiful and elegantly designed experiments in all of biology.
I then asked my Orgo professor whether she knew of any particularly elegant or beautiful experiments or reactions in chemistry and she responded that she thought the Diels-Alder reaction
represented a reaction that exemplified elegance in organic chemistry. The reaction itself is remarkably adaptable and requires little energy to produce a valuable substrate (a cyclohexene) Wikipedia describes the Diels-Alder reaction as the "Mona Lisa" of organic chemistry reactions.
Now I want to find more! What are some of the best examples of elegance and beauty in science and experimental design?