PhilSci Archive

Synthetic versus Analytic Approaches to Protein and DNA Structure Determination

Bolinska, Agnes (2018) Synthetic versus Analytic Approaches to Protein and DNA Structure Determination. [Preprint]

[img]
Preview
Text
synthetic vs analytic approaches.pdf

Download (2MB) | Preview

Abstract

The structures of protein and DNA were discovered primarily by means of synthesizing component-level information about bond types, lengths, and angles, rather than analyzing X-ray diffraction photographs of these molecules. In this paper, I consider the synthetic and analytic approaches to exemplify alternative heuristics for approaching mid-twentieth-century macromolecular structure determination. I argue that the former was, all else being equal, likeliest to generate the correct structure in the shortest period of time. I begin by characterizing problem solving in these cases as proceeding via the elimination of candidate structures through the successive application of component-level information and interpretations of X-ray diffraction photographs, each of which serves as a kind of constraint on structure. Then, I argue that although each kind of constraint enables the elimination of a considerable proportion of candidate structures, component-level constraints are significantly more likely to do so correctly. Thus, considering them before X-ray diffraction photographs is a better heuristic than one that reverses this order. Because the synthetic approach that resulted in the determination of the protein and DNA structures exemplifies such a heuristic, its use can help account for these discoveries.


Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Bolinska, Agnesamb273@cam.ac.uk
Additional Information: Forthcoming in Biology and Philosophy
Keywords: heuristics; X ray diffraction crystallography; evidence; protein structure; DNA structure; alpha helix; information; constraint; discovery
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Depositing User: Dr. Agnes Bolinska
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2018 15:53
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2018 15:53
Item ID: 14812
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Date: 2018
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14812

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item