Watch And Be Amazed By The Machinery Of Life : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture DNA. RNA. Amino acids. They all sound so abstract, so far from human reality. But it's the stuff from which you are constructed. Commentator Adam Frank shares a video that brings it all to life.
NPR logo Watch And Be Amazed By The Machinery Of Life

Watch And Be Amazed By The Machinery Of Life

Sometimes the visible world is all we need to be astonished at this weird thing called reality. For example that big, warm, yellow ball makes it into the sky every day. And every year, somehow, Spring makes it back to us. (Hello Spring! Sooner rather than later would be nice.) But sometimes it's the invisible world that makes your head explode in wonder.

I'm teaching a class on astrobiology — the study of life in its cosmic context. Right now we are covering the basic biochemistry of life. That means I'm trying to explain to my students exactly what DNA, RNA, amino acids and proteins are and what they do. Of course I'm not a biochemist or a molecular biologist. That means a lot of what I'm teaching them is stuff I'm still in the process of learning.

Which brings me to today's freak-out.

In the process of teaching my students about protein synthesis — which is how cells make all the stuff they need to work — I came across this clip from the PBS series "DNA." It's four minutes of amazing, visualizing how DNA gets unzipped, read, re-zipped and turned into something like hemoglobin, all in real-time.

This process of information coding, retrieval and manipulation by molecular machines of stunning specificity is going on right now inside every cell in your body AS YOU READ THESE WORDS.

Watch the video.

Stop and reflect.

Have a really, really good day.


You can keep up with more of what Adam Frank is thinking on Facebook and on Twitter: @AdamFrank4