Monday, August 30, 2010

Mind. Blown.

Ive read about the genetic code and how DNA uses nanotechnology to copy itself and read instructions in the code to make proteins. It's pretty impressive, but actually seeing it represented in computer animation... It's mind-blowing! From the folks at Dolan DNA Learning Center.

I know the prohibition of the use of 'design language' is de rigueur around the biological sciences but one can't help it. Those tiny proteins that are doing what they do -- reading instructions and carrying them out -- look like and are behaving like machines. Not only machines, but programmed machines. It's what prompted Nobel Prize winner Sir Francis Crick, after taking a look at the genetic code, to remark, "Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved. " Biologists must keep reminding themselves, despite what their instincts and common sense are telling them, that these intricate processes occurring in cells are a result of random chance and necessity. But even his resolve about this wavered a bit when he advocated some sort of directed panspermia.

DNA Replication

DNA Transcription

DNA Translation

Code, transcription, translation. There's no way around it. One has to use the language of computer programming and information technology to talk about this stuff. The genetic code is a set of specific instructions written using a 4-character alphabet (A,C,G,T) much like a machine code is written in binary. Then nanomachines read and translate the four-character machine code into a higher level code composed of 20 characters (the amino acids) which is then used to make proteins: enzymes, blood vessels, skin, hair... It's like translating this:
01010100 01101111 00100000 01100010 01100101 00100000 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100010 01100101
to this:
To be or not to be
so it can be performed on stage by Patrick Stewart. And of course to do that youll need something like this. Even ignoring the obvious chicken-and-egg problem this presents, the origin of the genetic information is already a doozy for scientists and is probably getting them very excited.

Some guy called Bill Gates, who I heard knew something about computer code said, "DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created." ( In this book. Not to misrepresent Mr. Gates though. I bet he'd rather keep reminding himself that what he sees in DNA was not designed but rather evolved.)

Oh, and for the record, that idea that all those nanomachines in the cell are the result of random events that somehow fell together? I think it's BS.

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