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Biology 101

Discussion in 'Science and Health' started by Joe, Apr 6, 2017.

  1. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member Unclaimed IQ

    Hi Veku. Thanks for the offer. I will stick to this book for now but I appreciate it. Yes, I am starting from scratch. I should know this stuff by now but I dont. If it was taught in school, I was sleep or not paying attention.
    Moloch and Veku like this.

  2. Veku

    Veku Active Member Unclaimed IQ

    Hello m8. Hehe, sounds all too familiar. Glad to hear that you're putting in the effort to get in tune with what you missed out. Do let me know if you need anything
    Joe and Mohsin like this.
  3. Mohsin

    Mohsin Well-Known Member IQ: 140+

    Hi @Joe, this is a great place to start. The question of what characteristics are required for something to be considered "living", is an interesting one.

    Lets go through them one-at-a-time:

    1) Living cells are made up of cells.
    No matter how obvious it may sound, the cell is a fundamental unit of life because all of the important chemical reactions required for life, occur in cells. Lets go into some of the organelles of a typical animal cell (I wont overwhelm you with too many organelles, so I will just use a few examples to make a point; there is a diagram at the end which should be easy to understand after reading my text below).

    The Nucleus: This is the organelle of a cell that contains the genetic material known as DNA. We are talking over 3 billion letters of DNA wrapped around proteins known as histones, all contained within this incredibly small nucleus. Imagine a plate of spaghetti meatballs; the spaghetti would be the DNA and the meatballs would be the histones. What is incredible about the cell is that it is able to contain huge amounts of this spaghetti of DNA and histone proteins, in a very small structure (the nucleus). Since everything the cell does is governed by the DNA that it contains, is isn't at all surprising that living things need cells to survive.

    The Cell membrane: This is the membrane that surrounds the cell so that it can control what goes into the cell and what goes out of the cell. Think of it as a barrier surrounding the contents of the cell (inside the cell) and protecting it from mixing it with the environment (outside the cell).

    The Mitochondria (singular = Mitochondrion): These are important organelles of the cell that are responsible for producing energy which the cell can use. Imagine the amount of energy required for one to wake up, go to the bathroom to get ready, cook breakfast, read the newspaper, walk to the train station and then work from 9am till 5pm. The cell does FAR more work than we do. This requires a huge amount of energy but where does it come from? The mitochondria are tiny organelles that produce all of this energy so that the cell can use this energy to perform whatever tasks it needs to.

    Here is a picture of a typical animal cell (hopefully you will be able to relate what I have said with the diagram to appreciate the importance of the cell):


    2. Living things obtain and use energy.
    Again, this should be easy to appreciate because it relates to what I said above about the mitochondria. Without energy, living things cant do anything. The mitochondria power the cells with energy so that they can perform.

    3. Living things grow and develop.
    This is addressing two distinctly separate terms. Growth is a necessity in-so-far as it is biologically good. After a baby is born, it goes through several stages which allow it to grow (become bigger over time) but in a biologically healthy way; so Growth is related to size. Development, on the other hand, occurs regardless of size. As the organs of the baby develop, they might start forming more complex structures, without the organs themselves becoming bigger in size.
    Even plants grow and develop. A tree for instance, grows in size and also develops over time in a manner that is similar to animals; for example, plants contain sophisticated transport mechanisms to transport water and food across the plant.
    Bacteria also follow their own process of growth and development.

    4. Living things reproduce.
    Reproduction can be sexual (requiring a male and a female) or asexual (requiring only one organism). Animals clearly reproduce by giving rise to offspring, but the interesting thing is that the way we reproduce is not the only method of reproduction. Fish reproduce differently to us by the process of external fertilization. Bacteria reproduce by dividing themselves into multiple copies. In one way or the other, living things have the capacity to reproduce.

    5. Living things respond to their environment.
    Responding to an environment depends on the presence of a stimulus (something that causes one to respond in some way) and a response to the stimulus. When you feel hungry, your tummy might rumble (stimulus), which causes you to go in the kitchen and find something to eat (the response). Plants respond to their environment by reacting to light (the stimulus), which causes them to move in the direction of light to make food (the response).

    6. Living things adapt to their environment
    This is sort of evolutionary, but what it comes down to is the fact that all living organisms acquire specific biological structures (such as skin, arms, legs, eyes etc), machineries (keeping our organs functioning well on a day-to-day basis) and behaviors (at some point, we overcame our fear of the water and learned how to swim) that help us adapt in one form of another. Plants are also adapted to live in very high temperature conditions where water is scarce (for example the cactus).

    7. Living things have different levels of organization.
    This is where the concept of cells, tissues, organs and organ systems becomes interesting. Besides performing their usual functions inside the cell, cells actually communicate with each other. The cell membrane for instance, contains a specific type of protein known as a receptor, which allows the cell to communicate with a neighboring cell (which might be transmitting a signal). When cells of a certain kind (i.e. cells that are programmed to be skin cells for example) group together, they communicate with each other and form clusters of cells. When this happens, the clusters of cells collectively give rise to a type of tissue (i.e. epidermal tissue). The tissues then cluster together and form the organ (i.e. Skin). So all living things have different levels of organization with respect to their biology.

    Now, here is something interesting to think about. What about Viruses? Are they living things? Believe it or not, till this day, we cannot classify viruses as living things based on the above criteria. This is why:

    a) Viruses do not have cells. They do not have any organelles like we do. They just consist of a self-replicating molecule of DNA or RNA surrounded by a protective coat of proteins, called the capsid.
    b) All viruses can reproduce but only by infecting living cells.
    c). Viruses do not have different levels of organization, and it remains a mystery as to whether or not they even produce energy.

    It is amazing how something so sophisticated as the Virus is not classed as a living thing. Interesting, no?
  4. JeffBradt

    JeffBradt New Member Unclaimed IQ


    I'm studying science too: physics at University at Buffalo. I'm in my second year here, although I am a junior because I had previous credit from other colleges.

    Good luck in your scientific endeavor here, and I'll see what I can do to read the posts more closely so that perhaps I can intelligently comment.

    Meanwhile, be well, everyone!


    P.S. This thread is an excellent idea. I love it!
    Mohsin likes this.
  5. Preacherbob

    Preacherbob Well-Known Member Unclaimed IQ

    Roughly 3 years ago I embarked upon a bio/chem/physics journey that has indeed kept me extremely busy thus far and may I say, my research has been extremely gratifying. I fear that the sub-topics I am involved with might be in a slightly different realm that yours @Joe but any assistance I may supply will be given without hesitation.
    Of course, to be completely honest, getting back to basics might be of a greater service to me than I might presently realize!
  6. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member Unclaimed IQ

    Very Interesting. Thank you for your detailed insight.

    Congratulations on your acceptance into the University and good luck. Physics is a discipline I am interested in as well.

    Thank you!

    Thank you. Thinking about and questioning the basics is where I want to be!
    Mohsin likes this.
  7. Creedinger

    Creedinger Well-Known Member IQ: 120+

    Those viruses are nothing but antisocial rowdies. Normal DNA and RNA spends their lives building cells to multiply and reproduce by the way, which was agreed upon millions of years ago. Build your own robot and then find another robot to multiply.

    But no, those viruses are jetting around in their protective coat and ruin the day of others. This is not all. Of course nature is brutal, so millions of years later people like Moshin state that viruses are such sofisticated entities and making people interested in them.

    How do you think your DNA feels about this Moshin?
  8. Mohsin

    Mohsin Well-Known Member IQ: 140+

    Firstly, not all viruses are disease-causing or detrimental to health. Our 'microbiome' comprises of a host of bacteria and viruses to protect us against a plethora of diseases. At New York University, a research group led by Ken Cadwell conducted a very interesting study to explore the beneficial effects of specific viruses in the gut of mice subjects. They stratified 2 groups of mice subjects (group A and B). The mice in group A were infected with a virus that was the equivalent of the norovirus in humans (a virus that causes vomiting in humans), which unlike humans, does not affect the gut of rodents, whereas mice in group B were not infected with this virus. Both groups of mice were then given antibiotic treatment, which completely wiped out their 'healthy' gut microbiome. Subsequently, they treated both groups of mice with a 'gut irritating' chemical, and what they observed was astonishing. The mice that were infected with the virus (group A) had significantly better survival compared to mice in group B, because the virus protected these mice against gut infections in the absence of their normal flora of bacteria (obliterated due to antibiotic treatment). This led them to conclude that certain viruses are likely to behave similarly to our normal flora of bacteria lining the gut, hence providing health benefits. In addition, it has been known for some time that specific intestinal viruses are beneficial in terms of boosting the human immune system, so not all viruses are as bad as you might think. The link to the NYU study is below (it was published in the New Scientist):


    On a different note, are you suggesting that it is wrong to be fascinated by subjects that pose a health problem? In that case, I do many wrongs on a daily basis because almost everything that fascinates me can kill me. I am fascinated by tornadoes, even though they would shred me into pieces if I ever got close enough to them. I am fascinated by differences between alligators and crocodiles, but I wouldn't go anywhere near either or them. Jupiter is my favourite planet, but I sure as hell wouldn't want to pack my bag and leave for Jupiter. In much the same way, I also happen to be fascinated by Viruses. What's the difference?

    My DNA doesn't "feel" anything, because it doesn't know how to feel. I guess my DNA is lucky in the sense that it will never have to worry about how it might feel about viruses.
    albinoblanke and WheatieMuncher like this.
  9. Creedinger

    Creedinger Well-Known Member IQ: 120+

    No, in my analogy viruses were andisocial rowdies and it is uncool to glorify antisocial rowdies. Your remarks about Viruses being healthy (thank you very much for giving the description of viruses being helpful for the gut) of cours shatters my analogy and I should write about viruses in more positive terms. It's not that I am close minded :)

    I think this is pretty cool. (This assumes that you are actually working on ways to improve the human condition - you might work in some underground lab researching bio weapons. In this case it would be very uncool).
  10. albinoblanke

    albinoblanke Member Claimed IQ: 140+

    Alligators are the ones with the broad U-shaped snout, right?;)

    great response:)
    Mohsin likes this.
  11. Mohsin

    Mohsin Well-Known Member IQ: 140+

    No problem; Glad the info was useful to you :). I think there is a difference between glorifying something and expressing fascination for it.

    Sure, I understand your point. However, the ultimate culprit behind almost every unfavorable act is not the object that represents the weapon itself, but it is rather man. A knife can be used to cut bread but at the same time, it can be a murder weapon. This is a rather unpleasant story, but I knew a kid who serendipitously killed himself by stabbing a pen in his nose via his nostrils to get himself out of Chemistry class; even a pen can kill a person. Potassium chloride which is sometimes used as a substitute for salt, when taken in large amounts, can induce a heart attack and kill a person. Countless objects around us can be used in a harmful manner if human intent is behind it. Similarly, if viruses are used as biological weapons, the culprit is not the virus itself, but it is rather man for choosing to use them for such a purpose in the first place. Even in the health care industry, we are responsible for causing a lot of damage by for instance, the excessive use of antibiotics causing several pathogens to develop resistance over time.
  12. Mohsin

    Mohsin Well-Known Member IQ: 140+

    Yep, thats one of the most recognizable differences that can be used to easily distinguish one from the other. However, there is one exception; The Indian Mugger Crocodile :)

    This little (or not so little) beast is characteristically Crocodilian, but unlike the typical V shaped snout, it has a somewhat U shaped one resembling the Alligator snout. This is the best picture I could find on the Internet to show you its atypical snout:

    albinoblanke likes this.
  13. marom

    marom Well-Known Member Claimed IQ: 140+

    Thank you. Very interesting ... I've never been especially interested in biology, of course; I've only ever had a deep interest in mathematics and its history. Still, the last bit about the virus caught my attention. Could you tell me more about viruses?
  14. Mohsin

    Mohsin Well-Known Member IQ: 140+

    They are unusually fascinating and do not seem to conform to any biological definition of living things. They are the only beings on Earth that have somehow managed to survive without harboring the basic functional unit of life; the cell.
    Structurally, they are distinctly different from bacteria, and any other organism for that matter, because they have much simpler structures. If you look inside a virus, all you will find is genetic material floating around in the form of DNA or RNA, and a layer of protein surrounding the virus itself. The purpose of this protein layer (called the capsid) is to protect the virus from being digested by chemical substances inside the body of the host which it infects. In our blood for instance, we have a specific Ph which would obliterate the virus if it wasn't surrounded by this capsid. It sort of acts as its armor. If the virus is harmful, the worst thing that could happen is for it to find its way inside of a cell. They are elusive in how they operate inside the body and they tend to remain unnoticed by the human immune system.

    How viruses enter the cell
    Ordinarily, several substances enter the cell to maintain healthy function. These substances could be specific proteins, ions or other important chemicals required by the cell. These substances enter the cell via a process known as endocytosis. This process is very simple to understand. These substances approach the membrane of the cell, the membrane acknowledges that something wants to get inside the cell and as a result, the membrane of the cell protrudes itself around the substance, entirely surrounding it until it forms a vesicle around the substance. The substance enclosed in the vesicle then enters the cell. Many viruses enter the cell by exploiting endocytosis. They trick the cell into allowing them access through the cell membrane. Once inside the cell, it is bad news depending on the nature of the virus.

    What viruses do inside the cell
    Once inside the cell, the virus enters the control center of the cell (the nucleus), where all of the DNA is kept and then they inject their own genetic material into the host DNA, changing the DNA sequence of the host in the process. However, this is not just a random change of the genetic code. The virus changes the DNA of the host cell in such a way that programs the cell to produce multiple copies of the virus. This is one of the ways in which viruses divide rapidly in the cell. They use the cell´s own biological machinery to create copies of themselves. After creating multiple copies, they can then leave the cell and enter a new location in the human body. Depending on the nature of viruses, they can completely destroy cells, alter biological functions, and ultimately cause death.

    One of the reasons why antibiotics are ineffective against viruses is that viruses enter inside human cells. Antibiotics are not able to exert their influence inside the cell, because they are designed to target pathogens floating around in the bloodstream. Another reason is that antibiotics are specifically developed to destroy bacteria based on their specific biology. Viruses have a completely different biology to bacteria, hence antibiotics cant do a damn thing to them.

    There is so much more I can tell you about viruses, but I will leave it at this for now.
    albinoblanke likes this.
  15. marom

    marom Well-Known Member Claimed IQ: 140+

    I would take it then that viruses do not have average life-spans but are, in effect, immortal - that is, they do not age but can continue on indefinitely, so long as they can continue to find hosts. I read somewhere that viruses can hibernate for an indefinite amount of time, becoming active only when they find a host.
    Are there any medications that are effective against viruses?
  16. albinoblanke

    albinoblanke Member Claimed IQ: 140+

    Wow, viruses seem immortal:o I am stuck at viruses not being alive though. It looks like the criteria of being alive isn't a finished debate yet, if viruses aren't alive but make sure they exist by doing all these crazy stuff and raping the cells (exaggerated:p), then how is being a cell that satisfies all the criteria you've mentioned, so special? If viruses aren't alive then what are they?
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2017 at 4:16 PM
    Mohsin likes this.
  17. Mohsin

    Mohsin Well-Known Member IQ: 140+

    Because viruses don't have cells, they are not reliant on the cell cycle. This indeed, renders them immortal. Some antivirals are known to be effective against viruses, but they do not kill viruses; they rather hamper them from reproducing. So technically, there are no medications that can strictly kill viruses.
  18. Mohsin

    Mohsin Well-Known Member IQ: 140+

    "Raping the cells" (very fitting actually) is not an exaggeration at all but rather very close to the truth.

    No idea dude! your guess is as good as mine. If you ever find out what they are, please let me know.
  19. Moloch

    Moloch Well-Known Member IQ: Over 150

    An excellent question. They can reproduce themselves but only by hijacking others. Virusses are genetic parasites, probably the first parasites to come about, extremely selfish genetic material, the opposite of altruistic genes, and in effect demonstrate that selfishness can only survive as long as there are others to prey upon. Of course that last bit is purely moralistic bias by M. Oloch.
    albinoblanke and Mohsin like this.
  20. Mohsin

    Mohsin Well-Known Member IQ: 140+

    With some exceptions; some viruses have been shown to be beneficial for healthy function by behaving in a manner akin to the normal flora of bacteria lining the GI tract. I responded to @Creedinger above in which I provided a reference to a very interesting study about this subject.
    albinoblanke likes this.

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