Just fix it

A couple days ago I found the most egregious error I’ve ever seen on wikipedia, not a graffiti issue, something that was wrong and had been wrong for a long time — since September 15 2004, on the DNA article. A picture of the chemical structure of DNA. It was in fact a “featured pictures” candidate for September 2004; it’s a little funny that all the comments about it failed to see the structure was wrong (a little sad, too).

Below is my marked-up version that points out all the errors (click it to get more resolution).

What I noticed, the immediate problem, was the base-pairing. In this picture the oxygens of guanine and cytosine were paired with each other, instead of with NH2. It looks like the author simply rotated a DNA strand 180 degrees and lined them up, not noticing that this actually fails to orient the bases appropriately. Maybe the problem is inherent in flattening a three-dimensional structure. Maybe it’s because the ribose connections of paired nucleotides are not opposite to each other, and this causes a “minor” and “major” groove in the backbones.

Anyway, I used ChemTool and GIMP to make a new picture and replaced all instances of the wrong-structure diagram with my new picture (in the articles DNA, Francis Crick, and GC content).

It took a long time, but I disapprove of people who complain about wikipedia errors without correcting them.

4 thoughts on “Just fix it

  1. Dan

    Good work! 🙂 Although I’ve never come across something so soldily wrong, I’ve often found physics equations (well, three) that were not only incorrect, but weren’t even dimensionally close.

    It’s frustrating when you go to use Wikipedia because it’s there and quick, and then have to spend 20 minutes looking for that elusive book you were trying to avoid just to fix it … In your case it looks like it was even more work, so cheers!

  2. Daf

    Indeed, my neighbour always grumbles about Wikipedia but, frustratingly, refuses to fix the problems he finds. He allages that somebody will only come along and undo his changes.


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