Monday, November 2, 2009

The Double Helix DNA Watson

I finished rereading The Double Helix by James Watson this weekend. Watson along with Francis Crick first determined the chemical structure of DNA which has revolutionized the field of biology. While many people are awed by looking at the stars and contemplating the size of the universe I seem to be awed more by contemplating the very small but extremely complicated molecular interactions that sustain life. To me this area is very fascinating and strengthens my belief in a creator the same way that many find in astronomy.

I had just read The Astonishing Hypotheses: The Scientific Search for the Soul by Francis Crick. Crick was a reductionist and saw ourselves as just molecular interactions and nothing more. The book is from the 90's and since that time there has been a great deal more work on trying to understand awareness and consciousness. The subtitle is rather misleading as most of the book demonstrates the extensive knowledge that Crick had developed regarding the visual system and computer neural network models but it is a good read nonetheless. From there I was wanting to know more about the work that he and Watson did regarding DNA so I googled and found a copy of their original paper that was published in the journal Nature in 1953. It is amazing that this paper is only one page long. I never would have imagined this. They did follow-up with the implications of their findings in the very next issue of Nature but again this was a very short article.

There have been other books written on the early work on DNA but The Double Helix is particularly interesting as it is a first person account. This of course leads to potential for significant bias about these events but it is well written and actually quite suspenseful. It is a short book and I highly recommend it. I will discuss this further tomorrow.

Thought for the day.

It just seems incredible to me that the most far reaching discovery in biology and biochemistry was initially described in just one page.

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