Tales from the Prep Room: Laser DiffractionThe Royal Institution
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The biophysicist captured "Photograph 51" of DNA whilst working at Kings College London. The photo -- which revealed the structure of DNA -- was later used by James D. Watson and Francis Crick as the basis for their famous model of the double helix.
By shining a laser through different configurations of wire, Andy is able to change the resulting diffraction pattern. Theoretically, he could then work backwards from each pattern to deduce the original position of each wire.
It is this idea that forms the basis of X-ray crystallography, using x-rays instead of laser light, and atoms instead of wires. X-ray crystallography allowed Rosalind Franklin to determine the 3D structure of DNA by analysing the X-ray diffraction patterns of crystals made up of the molecule.
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