4 Fun Facts from “Fundamentals of Biology”

Magnolia petals stained with methylene blue and shown at 100 times magnification.

(Original image courtesy of kaibara on Flickr.)

Fundamentals of Biology is an OCW Scholar course that’s designed to help you learn the principles of the basic mechanisms of life. Our Digital Publication Specialist Alicia Franke, who works with the Biology Department, has collected a few interesting tidbits from this rich course.

#1: Your genome (assuming you’re human) contains 3 billion base pairs of DNA, and about 20,000-25,000 genes.

Learn about nucleic acids and the structure of DNA, and click over to the Human Genome Project to learn about how the sequence of these 3 billion bases were determined.

#2: van der Waals forces in action: These geckos are able to stick to any surface, even climb up walls. How? Their toe pads contain millions of tiny hairs (known as setae), so tiny that they can interact with surfaces on a molecular level. No glue required.

Learn about van der Waals forces in the video lecture: Proteins, Levels of Structure, Non-Covalent Forces, Excerpt 2. (Skip forward to 25:40.)

#3: Another reptile fact! A species of lizard, known as the Jesus Christ lizard, can actually walk on water. They are able to do this because of the structure of their feet, combined with a very important property of water known as surface tension.

Watch this video of the lizard in action, and then learn about surface tension in the video lecture Covalent Bonds, Hydrogen Bonds. (Start at 20:45.)

#4. You already know donuts are delicious. You also know that fats can be both good and bad for us. Why, exactly, are some fats (like cis-unsaturated) good for us, while other fats like trans-unsaturated (or “trans fats”) are bad for us?

Learn the details of the answer in the video lecture Macromolecules: Lipids, Carbohydrates, Nucleic Acid, Excerpt 1. Prof. Havel Sive gets into saturated fats at 14:45, unsaturated fats at 17:00, and trans fats at 18:25.

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