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Chemistry of Life

Introduces molecules and chemical reactions in the context of living beings.

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The Triple Helix That Wasn't
teacher Contributed

The Triple Helix That Wasn't

Topic

Determination of DNA's structure

Student Exploration

Hmmm, How Does This Go Together?

You hear about DNA a lot these days. Technology has advanced to the point where new lines of research and questioning are possible that not very long ago simply weren't. But do you know that about 50 years ago scientists were working to just understand how DNA was put together?

It is always best to to hear information from the source. Here are Watson and Crick talking about their work.

With all our technology today, it is easy to forget how much can be accomplished with simple means and the human brain. Here is James Watson explaining the process he went through while working on DNA's molecular structure.

Extension Investigation

Use the resources below to answer the following questions:

  1. In the structure of DNA, where are the phosphate (PO4) groups located? Where are the nucleic acids located?
  2. How does the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA illustrate the value of scientists working in teams?
  3. How do you think scientists being too fond of their own ideas (which many non-scientists are as well) runs counter to the scientific process?
  4. How did Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins contribute to determining DNA's molecular structure?
  5. How did the amount of water (H2O) contained in DNA cause problems for the hypothesis that DNA was a triple helix?

Resources Cited

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