Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

The yellow (and red, blue and green) brick road

My fellow Cambridge-London commuters; did you work it out? Once you know that it depicts a gene, it’s annoyingly obvious. But despite travelling past it by train about three days per week, I failed to identify the thousands of brightly coloured bars painted on the cycle path next to the rail track near Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s hospital as a nucleotide sequence. It should have been a clue that only four colours are used.

It probably comes from generally not being very biochemistry minded, as a straight-physics editor. Nevertheless, a friend of mine mentioned he had heard about the biology-inspired cycle path artwork and after some quick Googling, the rumour was confirmed; the colourful sequence stands for the BRCA2 gene, implicated in breast cancer and discovered in 1995.

What a good idea to combine scientific topics with railway scenery. After five years of commuting I would welcome more of these puzzles along the rail track to keep me entertained!


Liesbeth Venema (Senior Editor, Nature)


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    Black Knight said:

    Oh, they finally built it, then.

    I left just over a year ago, and they had been surveying but as far as we knew the Council had trashed the idea of building the path because it would have been too costly to keep it lit at night. I need to go back and see it, as I used to live in Great Shelford and would have cycled that path to get to the LMB each day.

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    Stu said:

    This may need a subscription (sorry) – but this post inspired a small piece in Nature this week, see here