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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Review: Biology - The Science of Life

Biology was one of those gaps in my education, so I decided to bite the bullet and listen to the Great Courses offering: The Science of Life. At 72 30 minute lectures, this was a 36 hour listen and took more than a month.

Prof. Nowicki chose to organize the class in 3 themes: information processing, development, and resource processing, dividing the course into 3 equal segments. Within each segment, he would operate in increasing hierarchy of scales: from molecules to cells to organs, individual animals, species, and eventually at the ecological or planetary scale. This was a great organizing principle, since if you got lost in what he was talking about, you could at least slot it into place in the overall architecture of the course.

This course is comprehensive, starting from an examination of DNA/RNA and its discovery. (Including a description of the central dogma, which turns out to be a framework rather than a dogma). This part of the course was familiar with it, and put me in a state of complacency.

The development part was much harder, and I got lost in several sections as to how cells become what they are. By the time we got to resource processing I was overwhelmed with the description of ATP and the various energy cycles and controlled energy release that occurs in cell.

However, in all cases, Nowicki was a great lecturer, with strong enunciation and a willingness to explain how the pieces fit in together. I'm glad I paid money for the lecture series, as it did take far more than the 3 week library checkout period to get through it, and it's plausible that I might want to come back to it in the future.


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