The basis of structure, of life, and of mankind Essay
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Every single form of life on the planet is created and controlled by a chemical ‘recipe’, a chemical code consisting of hundreds of thousands of instructions in every single cell, the basis of structure, of life, and of mankind. Who, what, where, when, how, and why, are all questions which for centuries have remained unanswered. They demanded an extraordinary amount of skill, time, and precision from individuals the world over to be conquered to our current level of understanding. Many discoveries have led to the discovery of genetics.
In 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen, a german physicist, accidentally discovered x-rays, whilst studying cathode rays in a high voltage gaseous discharge tube. This marked the beginning of a long series of explorations and experiments, eventually leading to the discovery of DNA. A year later in 1896, Antoine Becquerel, this time a french physicist, discovered through experimentation and observation, the disintegration of electromagnetic rays (x-rays, and gamma rays), also known as radioactivity. He was observing the element uranium and saw that it could blacken a photographic plate even though the latter was separated by a sheet of glass and paper.
Becquerel also noticed that the rays were capable of emitting charge captured by an electroscope, which showed they possessed an electric charge too. Becquerel’s idea was revolutionised in 1898 by Pierre and Marie Curie who suggested radioactivity occurred due to the structure of atoms. Max Von Laue then discovered x-ray diffraction in 1912, which was, not long after, mathematically interpreted by Lawrence Bragg by analysing the different diffraction patterns made by x-rays when they deviate from their original paths, due to closely spaced atoms in the crystal.
Bragg didn’t believe that Laue’s theory was correct in detail. He therefore carried out numerous experiments and concluded by using the now common ‘Bragg law’. This details at what angles x-rays will be most efficiently diffracted by crystals when the wavelength and distance between the crystal atoms are known. One very famous scientist who played a large part in the progression towards the discovery of DNA was Maurice Wilkins. Teamed with Rosalind Franklin, both x-ray crystallographers, their studies included analysing DNA crystals and diffraction.
They discovered that the sugar-phosphate backbone of the DNA molecule is present on the outside of the molecule and also discovered the basic helical structure of the molecule. The final breakthrough came in 1953, when Francis Crick, and James Watson (Wilkins was also a principal contributor) officially published their model for the structure of DNA. They discovered how information, governing heredity is carried in the chromosomes of human cells (DNA), hence determining physical development in every single cell of the individual.
Procedures have evolved even further since then, which shows how much science can progress over the years. What begins as a small theory can drastically transform into an enormous scientific revolution, changing they way we would have previously visualised ideas. HUGO was set up in the year 2000. This organisation involves the very best scientists from all over the world and the technology of supercomputers and robotics also, and was set up originally in a bid to crack the genetic code. This occurred on the 26th of June 2000 and now provides the ‘blueprint’ for all human life.
Thanks to all the dedication of those scientists over centuries, many ideas previously considered as ridiculous are being reconsidered. Who would believe, for instance, that an actual living animal could be cloned using another animal’s DNA? It may have taken scientists over 250 attempts to clone ‘Dolly the sheep’, but they succeeded in the end. Could it now be seen as possible to clone a dinosaur? It could occur, although the odds of retrieving frozen, preserved, living cells are very slim.
Another consideration would need to be finding a very closely related female living species for the cloning to work. An impossibility? Perhaps not! New technology derived from such scientific investigations now enable more effective medical treatments to be created, and also could help eradicate inherited diseases such as downs syndrome or some forms of cancer, giving people a better quality of life. Recent innovations are GM crops, and human cloning, over which there is much controversy.
We do not yet know what disadvantages could occur if we mess with the chemical code for life. For all the advantages such as enabling crops to become drought resistant, creating decaffeinated coffee plants, and increasing disease and pest resistance, as well as maybe in the future being able to recreate an animal or person whom has died, or being able to choose how your baby will look, there are bound to be disadvantages. Recent research suggests that disease immunity decreases considerably in a cloned animal, than a normal animal.
With such complicated and moral issues, the issue of religion must be considered. It can sometimes be perceived that science today is displacing the views of religion. For example it is believed that god created mankind. With evidence such as the above, it certainly questions the reliability of religion. I believe that both religion and science is important. The human race is forever wanting answers as to what they don’t know. However, the amount of belief in religion seems to be declining due to people wanting evidence to support statements.
No longer will they accept an idea as a safeguard because it is stated in the bible, they want to know why it is so. Its seems more people want to believe magic however. Maybe it is because science is so closely related to magic and is in itself a type of ‘hocus pocus’. It is a method of explaining why something occurs despite our limited knowledge and disbelief and doesn’t need experiments to clarify it. In the past it was thought to contradict the bible, but, really it is another side of science which just needs to be explored. In the past, it was believed witches conjured magic.
We now know that it is the planet earth which conjures up magic which is waiting to be uncovered. Altogether, it can be concluded that science has progressed dramatically over the years. It is a magic which is never ending and which will never cease to be investigated. It is an alternative way of looking at the world, which progresses everyday and which, just like religion or magic, brings about previously unheard of miracles. Science is always being revolutionised and is beginning to be seen by many as a new religion, which is gradually unfolding the mysteries the universe prevails.