Watson shows Alan how he came to discover the double helix.
help clarify the difficult concepts in genetics. We compare
base pairs, which make up genes, to "building blocks," and
genes themselves, which tell cells what do to, to "blue prints."
And the human genome, containing all the information needed
to build and operate a human being, often gets compared to
a book if not an entire library. All these metaphors make
it easy to forget that genes are real things.
At the DNA Learning Center on Long Island, Alan Alda gets
to meet his own genes face to face. First, he swishes some
mouthwash around, sloughing off thousands of cheek cells,
each of which contains all the information (three billion
letter's worth!) needed to build an Alan Alda. Then, using
enzymes and a centrifuge to break up and separate the cells,
Alan is left with a vial of his own DNA, which looks clear
and slightly gooey to the naked eye.
elegant double helix structure was first discovered by James
Watson and Francis Crick in 1953. At Watson's office at Cold
Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, Alan talks with the
Nobel Laureate about those heady days of discovery when it
all fell into place, and the field of molecular biology took
off. We've come a long way since, but not necessarily far
enough for James Watson.
"I mean it's going good and it's great," Watson tells Alan.
"But I'll only be truly happy if we stop cancer or stop schizophrenia."
more on this topic, see the web feature:
Falling in Love with DNA