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I have understood generally for a while there is a significant preference in "life" for so-called "left-handed" (chiral) molecules, though I'm reading things now that say "life" sugars are right-handed, while "life" amino-acids are left-handed.

I'm wondering: how simple do these molecules get (particularly the molecules that are in intelligent life, if there happen to be any that are exclusive to intelligent life)?

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Don't get hung up on the "left-handed" and "right-handed" designations for amino acids and sugars. Those are just conventions for distinguishing one mirror image (enantiomer) of a chiral molecule from another. It just so happens that based on a particular way of drawing (Fisher projection) amino acids and sugars that it appears that the configurations are "left-handed" or "right-handed."

As for how simple chiral biological molecules get, the simplest ones that I can think of are alanine or lactic acid. I'm not sure what you consider "intelligent", but these are likely to be found in all life (as we know it).

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not trying to get hung up on it, as I understand it has to do with how it bends light (at least in one classification system), but that's probably good advice for others with a similar question. I'm only looking for directing further research as far as needed for science fiction (a story I have in mind that probably will never get written), and Google wasn't really able to "understand" my question. These two look like a good enough starting point - Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Code Jockey Oct 20 '14 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ as far as "intelligent", I was going for anywhere from things that have a "central" nervous system to things that we consider self-aware - pretty loose definition, really $\endgroup$ – Code Jockey Oct 20 '14 at 13:52

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