The rise and fall of chemistry

Hiroyuki Isobe and colleagues at Tohoku and Tsukuba Universities in Japan have recreated the illusion of the so-called "Penrose steps" on the molecular scale. The optical illusion was the inspiration of the famous sketch by artist M C Escher - Ascending and Descending. The Japanese team constructed their spiraling [4]helicene molecule and showed that when projected from its space-filling 3D form to the commonly used 2D molecular structure format it seems to ascend and descend simultaneously as one's eye traces a path around its cyclic form. The molecule is not only of esthetic interest. Isobe and colleagues suggest that its combination of covalent and non-covalent bonding as well as the intriguing topology might be useful in developing novel liquid crystals