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What you should know

Most of us already know: that an atom is the smallest division of matter that can take part in a chemical reaction; that a molecule is a structure of two or more atoms; and that life on Earth is based on organic molecules: defined as those molecules that contain carbon, often in combination with hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, and may include other elements like sodium, calcium, phosphorous and iron.  

Organic molecules can be extremely large.  Familiar extremely large organic molecules include plastics like polyethylene and many proteins, like spider web.

Chromosomes are structures within the cells of animals and plants consisting of very large molecules of  DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid).   DNA stores and replicates information. It encodes the genes used by all complex living organisms on Earth to reproduce and function. 

The exception is viruses that use RNA to replicate by hijacking a host cell's DNA.  The ability of DNA to accurately replicate allows living organisms to divide and thus pass on life to their successors down the generations. 

Cell replication is what we call 'life'.  The replicating DNA molecule can therefore be regarded as the 'engine of life' or the 'life force' on Earth.  So it is quite a good thing to understand. 

It's amazing to think that we have only understood it within my lifetime, so throw away all those ancient texts.

 

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Travel

Cambodia and Vietnam

 

 

 In April 2010 we travelled to the previous French territories of Cambodia and Vietnam: ‘French Indochina’, as they had been called when I started school; until 1954. Since then many things have changed.  But of course, this has been a region of change for tens of thousands of years. Our trip ‘filled in’ areas of the map between our previous trips to India and China and did not disappoint.  There is certainly a sense in which Indochina is a blend of China and India; with differences tangential to both. Both have recovered from recent conflicts of which there is still evidence everywhere, like the smell of gunpowder after fireworks.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The new James Bond

 

 

It was raining in the mountains on Easter Saturday.

We'd decided to take a couple of days break in the Blue Mountains and do some walking. But on Saturday it poured.  In the morning we walked two kilometres from Katoomba to more up-market and trendy Leura for morning coffee and got very wet.

After a train journey to Mount Victoria and back to dry out and then lunch in the Irish Pub, with a Cider and Guinness, we decided against another soaking and explored the Katoomba antique stores and bookshops instead.  In one I found and bought an unread James Bond book.  But not by the real Ian Fleming. 

Ian Fleming died in 1964 at the young age of fifty-six and I'd read all his so I knew 'Devil May Care' was new.  This one is by Sebastian Faulks, known for his novel Birdsong, 'writing as Ian Fleming' in 2008.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Frederick Sanger - a life well spent

 

 

I have reached a point in my life when the death of a valued colleague seems to be a monthly occurrence.  I remember my parents saying the same thing. 

We go thought phases.  First it is the arrival of adulthood when all one's friends are reaching 21 or 18, as the case may be.  Then they are all getting married.  Then the babies arrive.  Then it is our children's turn and we see them entering the same cycle.  And now the Grim Reaper appears regularly. 

As I have repeatedly affirmed elsewhere on this website, each of us has a profound impact on the future.  Often without our awareness or deliberate choice, we are by commission or omission, continuously taking actions that change our life's path and therefore the lives of others.  Thus our every decision has an impact on the very existence of those yet to be born. 

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