James Watson: Rosalind Franklin Couldn’t Deal With People

The X-ray crystallographer contributed some crucial pieces of information to Watson and Crick’s search for the double helix. But because she likely had Asperger’s syndrome, she was almost impossible to collaborate with.

Question: What was Rosalind Franklin’s role in the discovery of DNA?

James Watson: She provided the... some crucial pieces of information.  Her great handicap, which I would now say we would use the term Asperger’s, she didn’t know how to deal with other people; didn’t know how to ask for help. And, if anything, probably paranoid about people stealing her data.  And if she’d come out to Cambridge and shown her data to Crick, she... Crick would have told her how to solve her problem.  She had a clue, but she didn’t know how to interpret it, and Francis would have immediately have told her what it was because his own work in Cambridge, just by accident, had let him deal with that problem.  So he could have told her, and she had gone back to London and he would have said, "You know, there are two chains and she said the phosphoruses were on the outside then they would have to be held together by the bases.  And once you say that, you are very close to the structure. 

So... I don’t think her name deserved to be on the paper, I mean, she really fought bitterly saying it was the helix, and didn’t collaborate.  And because of her... her failure to interact effectively, it was hard to know how bright she was, and why she was so strongly against it being a helix.  I don’t know.  You know, afterwards, I would never ask her those questions, we were not... afterwards we weren’t at all unpleasant to each other, we liked to talk to each other. I mean we could you know, talk to each other.  But I never asked her if she wanted to spontaneously say something, but she never did.

Recorded on September 28, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman

The X-ray crystallographer contributed some crucial pieces of information to Watson and Crick’s search for the double helix. But because she likely had Asperger’s syndrome, she was almost impossible to collaborate with.

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

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  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.