Exactly what does the thalidomide drug have in common with sea shells, spiral galaxies and your left and right hands? Prescribed as a relief medication for morning sickness in the 1960s, thalidomide afflicted thousands of new-born babies the world over with severe birth defects. Such havoc was wreaked because scientists overlooked one of its crucial properties: its molecules can have either a left- or right-handed structure, each type exhibiting wildly different properties – and thalidomide was produced as a mixture of the two.
This handedness seems to be a fundamental characteristic of our universe, was responsible for the emergence of life on Earth, and now drives a myriad of technological advances, from perfect lenses to nano-robotic propellers. We look forward to sharing its history, present research and future directions.