Open Questions

In science the questions are more important than the answers

The open question format aims at publishing scientific ideas, problems, and questions, that have not been adressed yet. On two pages at most you have the chance to inspire the scientific community with questions that you think are important. Your contribution will not be peer reviewed but published asap on our website.

An Open Question can have a length of 2 pages at most in the given template!

We invite you to discuss the open questions by leaving comments, remarks and ideas. Leave a Reply!

Jul 102013

Philipp Rahea,b, Stefan Kuhna, Angelika Kühnlea

aInstitut für Physikalische Chemie, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Duesbergweg 10-14, 55099 Mainz, Germany
bDepartment of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Utah, 115 South 1400 East, 84112 Salt Lake City, UT, USA

JUnQ, 3, 2, OQ, 21-25, 2013 (Received 14.05.2013, resubmitted 05.06.2013, accepted 30.06.2013, published online 10.07.2013)

Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is one of the most abundant simple salts in nature. It is found in the shells of molluscs such as slugs or sea shells, where it combines with organic molecules to materials with remarkable properties named biominerals. To understand, imitate, and control the formation process of these biominerals, they have been the focus in a vast number of recent studies. Most interestingly, calcium carbonate has been discussed being related to the homochirality of life. This aspect became evident in studies, where the adsorption of amino acids has been demonstrated not only to be enantiospecific, but also to influence enantiospecific the macroscopic growth. Although it is established that the bulk-truncated structure
of the most stable calcite (10̅14) surface is achiral due to a glide plane symmetry, the existence of a chiral surface structure has been claimed from studying the phase selection of calcium carbonate. As this finding violates the bulk-truncated symmetry properties, it has been discussed controversially, eventually resulting in a correction of the previous statement. Here, we briefly revisit the symmetry properties of the calcite (10̅14) surface, unambiguously concluding that the bulk-truncated surface is achiral. Furthermore, we present clear evidence that one surface property, the already observed, so-called row-pairing reconstruction, can violate the remaining symmetry element and would, thus, create a chiral surface. We critically analyze the existence of this row-pairing reconstruction and give arguments for and against its existence. Based on AFM experiments, we describe a strategy to identify the enantiomers and, furthermore, show that the enantiomer does not change from terrace to terrace on the surface. However, due to the given ambiguity on the existence of the row-pairing reconstruction, the question whether the calcite (10̅14) surface is chiral remains open.

Read more: Is Calcite (1014) a Chiral Surface?

Jul 102013

Felix Spenkuch

Institute of Pharmacy and Biochemistry Johannes Gutenberg-Universit&#228t, Mainz, Germany

JUnQ, 3, 2, OQ, 17-20, 2013 (Received 28.04.2013, accepted 22.06.2013, published online 10.07.2013)

In the central dogma of molecular biology DNA (deoxynucleic acid) is transcribed into RNA (ribonucleic acid) which in turn makes the protein. 60 years after the creation of this dogma, however, it is clear that RNA is much more than the transient copy of DNA. A special subgroup of RNA molecules also transfers the aminoacids to the protein making machinery, thereby requiring a delicate balance of conformational uniformity and flexibility. In addition, RNA carries out many regulatory functions and is, in particular, the catalytic component of the proteinmaking machinery of the ribosome. It is understood today that RNA has to be heavily and specifically modified to carry out all these complex functions: The four building blocks known at the beginning of RNA research (adenosine, cytidine, guanosine, and uridine) are extended to 160 to date, numbers growing. Pseudouridine (&#968), the so called ‘fifth nucleoside’, is a C-C-glycosidic isomer of uridine and is as abundant as the four canonical bases. While its function is only partly understood, the mechanism of its formation by the action of enzymes called &#968-synthases, is even more nebulous. This article sums up information obtained by using the mechanistic probe 5-fluorouridine (5FU) on &#968-synthases: Three mechanisms were proposed to date of which none is solidly proven or disproven. Recent results show, however, that 5-fluorouridine may not form a reaction intermediate of usual &#968-formation, as expected, but may react by a totally different mechanism. Could new mechanistic probes and simulations help to elucidate the mechanism of these marvelous enzymes?

Read more: How Do Pseudouridine Synthases Work?

Dec 302012

Raffaello Potestio

Max-Planck-Institut für Polymerforschung, Mainz, Germany

JUnQ, 3, 1, OQ, 13-15, 2013 (Received 07.12.2012, accepted 23.12.2012, published online 30.12.2012)

Henderson’s theorem states that two potential energy functions that produce the same radial distribution function (RDF) can differ only by a constant. In the daily business of coarse-graining, though, we often face the fact that remarkably different poten- tials give rise to RDF’s which are indistinguishable within the available numerical accuracy.

Read more: Is Henderson’s Theorem Practically Useful?

Dec 302012

Wolter Seuntjens

Dutch Academy of ’Pataphysics, Amsterdam

JUnQ, 3, 1, Open Questions, 9-12, 2013 (Received 25.11.2012, accepted 6.12.2012, published online 30.12.2012)

Masturbation is often accompanied by fantasizing. Anecdotal evidence suggests that at least some people cannot fantasize about the person they are in love with while they masturbate. This putative phenomenon, the Masturbation Fantasy Paradox (MFP), may be a particular case of a more general principle put forward by Sigmund Freud in 1912.

Read more: The Masturbation Fantasy Paradox: An Overlooked Phenomenon?

Dec 302012

Johannes Beller and Juela Kazazi

Institute of Psychology, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany

JUnQ, 3, 1, OQ, 5-8, 2013 (Received 21.08.2012, accepted 14.12.2012, published online 30.12.2012)

In German the generic masculine refers to a generalizing denotation which is grammatically masculine. For example, in the sentence “Wissenschaftler führen Studien durch” (engl. “scientists conduct studies”) “scientists” is meant to be a generic masculine, because usually one implicitly refers to both “Wissenschaftler” (“male scientists”) and “Wissenschaftlerinnen” (“female scientists”) but uses only the masculine form “Wissenschaftler”. Since the 1970s, the use of a generic masculine language, as a sexist one, has been highly debated and alternatives like a gender-fair language have been suggested, with the term gender-fair language referring to the use of formulations, which imply an equal linguistic treatment of men and women — such as in the sentence “Wissenschaftler und Wissenschaftlerinnen führen Studien durch”…

Read more: Is there an Effect of Gender-Fair Formulations in the German Language?

Aug 232012

Wolter Seuntjens

Dutch Academy of ’Pataphysics, Amsterdam

JUnQ, 3, 1,Open Questions, 1-4, 2013 (Received 06.06.2012, accepted 27.06.2012, published online 23.08.2012)

In the 1950s five books on sexology — in a broad sense — were published in German under the name of ‘Carl van Bolen’. However, the man and the author ‘Carl van Bolen’ never existed. Who then wrote the books? My preliminary investigation did not yield an answer. In fact, during my research the mystery only deepened.

Read more: Who Was the Sexologist 'Carl van Bolen'?

Jul 022012

Sascha Henninger, University of Kaiserslautern, Kaiserslautern, Germany

Journal of Unsolved Questions, 2, 2, Open Questions, 10, 2012 (Received 29.05.2012, accepted 22.06.2012, published online 02.07.2012)

The initial research objective was to capture the metabolic heat flux, the heat given off by people’s bodies, in order to determine if it exerts a lasting influence on the air temperature of a space crowded with people comparable to a sold-out stand of a football stadium. …

Read more: Could Climatological Knowledge Help to Prevent a Mass Panic?

Jun 212012

Thorsten Kahl, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe-Universitaet, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Journal of Unsolved Questions, 2, 2, Open Questions, 7, 2012 (Received 21.03.2012, accepted 07.05.2012, published online 21.06.2012)

This open question emerged from a footnote I wrote questioning the Spartan civil and political rights in archaic times. Plutarch’s biography of Lykurgos soon became my main source because he describes details about archaic Sparta which can barely be found in other authors’ works. This makes Plutarch indispensable for me. But it is also a problem in source of criticism because we cannot verify or falsify Plutarch’s Life of Lykurgos by comparing it to contemporary, archaic sources – there are none. …

Read more: Is Plutarch a Trustworthy Source for Archaic Sparta?

Mar 312012

Wolter Seuntjens, Dutch Academy of ‘Pataphysics, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Journal of Unsolved Questions, 2, 2, Open Questions, 4, 2012 (Received 05.02.2012, accepted 27.03.2012, published online 31.03.2012)

In the German language, when referring to an artistic representation of a naked human body, the noun ‘Akt’
is employed. This word was not always used to denote such an artistic representation. The combination of
questions – (1) when, (2) where, (3) by whom, and (4) why was the noun ‘Akt’ first used in this particular
meaning – was the starting point of my quest. This article chronicles the inception of the problem and the
vain attempts to solve it. In short, it is the story of the ‘null result’ of ‘Akt’ research, so far.

Read more: Why ‘Akt’ and Why Not ‘Nackt’?

Dec 032011

Christof Troeltzsch, Bliesenrader Weg 5, Born/Darss, Germany

Journal of Unsolved Questions, 2, 1, Open Questions, 3, 2011 (Received November 3rd 2011, accepted November 25th 2011, published December 3rd 2012)

While working on the doctoral thesis about chelates of zirconium and hafnium – cf. [1] for preparation of the ligands and [2] for preparation of the chelates – we made an observation which could not be explained and therefore was only described in the doctoral thesis of Christof Troeltzsch, Leipzig, 1960, in the following way: ….

Read more: Which Intermediate Product Causes the Blue Colouring in a Grignard Reaction Involving Zirconium Chelates?