Scientists discover ‘principle of sexual symmetry’ in aerial research

Scientists discover ‘principle of sexual symmetry’ in aerial research

Scientists from the University of Bern, Switzerland, were able to determine the principle of symmetry in a helicopter at a speed of 70 kilometers per hour (km/h) and at an altitude of two kilometers. The idea is to test the human ability to find this principle in others. Planets, moving in their orbits and atmospheres.

To understand the process, it is worth clarifying: “chirality” is the name given to an object that cannot be superimposed on its mirror image, that is, “chiral”. In chemistry, molecular studies establish this principle as one of the most fundamental principles of human life.


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A “symmetry” is a form by which the basic molecules of an organism are built, and its identification could advance the search for life on other planets. Photo: Zolotarevs / Shutterstock

To make it easier to understand: look at your hands. In most people, they are perfect copies of each other, but they’re mirrored, right? This feature prevents one hand from interfering with the other. Molecules have this shape, too: reflexive, not superimposed.

Amino acids, the “building blocks” of proteins, are mostly left-handed (or “evil” if you’re more technical). Polysaccharides, of which DNA and RNA are composed, are predominantly right-handed (or “right-handed”). If you reverse any of them, the entire structure collapses. Chemists called this “the principle of analogy”.

Nobody knows yet the “why” of this, but the consensus is that it is very important to us. And investigating this at the heights may, in the future, allow humanity to investigate analogues on other planets. Just doing an experiment like this on Terra really helps reveal important information about plant health, for example.

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“When light is reflected off a biological material, part of its electromagnetic waves travel clockwise or counterclockwise,” said physicist Lucas Baty, who was involved in the study. This phenomenon is called “circular polarization” and is caused by the symmetry of the said substance. The dead matter does not produce similar light spirals.”

Such research requires the use of an instrument called a “spectrometer,” which uses multiple sensors to separate the polarized interaction. The difference here is that in recent years, the team led by Bate has developed a spectrometer, which they called “TreePol,” to detect the circular polarization of plants several kilometers away.

Then they adapted a version of TreePol and created “FlyPol,” an improved version, adapted for on-the-fly readings, with more sensitive sensors and adding temperature controls. And it was enough to fly over the regions of Val-de-Travers and Le Locle in Switzerland, to see how useful it was:

“The major advance is that these instruments have been used on a platform with full motion, vibrating, and are still able to detect a biological signature within seconds,” said astronomer Jonas Kuhn, also from the University of Bern. According to him, FlyPol was able not only to separate the readings of biological and abiotic materials (think “separating weeds from asphalt”), but also to classify the volumes within the analyzed biology: in a short time, the tool knew, for example, what was Shrub and what was a tree and so they accurately identified underwater algae.

Now, the research team is working on improving the device, with the goal of testing it to determine symmetry at higher altitudes and speeds, such as 27,580 km/h and 400 km altitude, a measurement you’ll likely know as “going underground.”

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We hope that the next step will be to make similar discoveries to the International Space Station. [ISS]”He directs our instruments to Earth,” said Brice-Olivier Demory, an astrophysicist at the University of Bern. This will allow us to assess the ability to detect biological fingerprints on a planetary scale. This will be a crucial step in the search for life outside our solar system.”

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