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Sioux Falls Scientists endorse Biology: The Science of Life for an
excellent overview of the subject. A great deal has since been
discovered, but this course will give you the basics.

The Science of Life
Lectures by Professor Stephen Nowicki

Biology: The Science of Life (2004) - 72 lectures, 36 hours
Biology: The Science of Life at TheGreatCourses.com

One of the greatest scientific feats of our era is the astonishing progress made in understanding the intricate machinery of life. We are living in the most productive phase so far in this quest, as researchers delve ever deeper into the workings of living systems, turning their discoveries into new medical treatments, improved methods of growing food, and innovative new products.

"The 21st century will be the century of biological science, just as the 20th century was the century of physical science," predicts Professor Stephen Nowicki, an award-winning teacher at Duke University who has specially adapted his acclaimed introductory biology course for The Teaching Company to bring you up to date on one of the most important fields of knowledge of our time.

This intensive, 72-lecture course will give you the background and guidance to explore in depth the fundamental principles of how living things work - principles such as evolution by natural selection, the cellular structure of organisms, the DNA theory of inheritance, and other key ideas that will help you appreciate the marvelous diversity and complexity of life.

Explore Living Systems at All Levels

Make no mistake: This is a challenging course. But the rewards are tremendous. You will explore living systems at all levels, from biological molecules to global ecosystems. Along the way, you will gain insight into some of the most pressing questions facing society:

  • What does it mean to say that the human genome has been sequenced, and why should we sequence the genomes of other species?
  • How is an organism genetically modified or cloned, and what are the benefits - or potential costs - of doing so?
  • What are stem cells, and how might they contribute to health and welfare?
  • Why is HIV/AIDS so difficult to treat?
  • What will happen if vast tracts of tropical rainforest are cut down, and why does it matter that the temperature of the Earth is rising?

In addition, you will discover the mechanisms behind such intriguing phenomena as why children resemble their parents, what causes plants to bend toward light, how memories are stored, why some birds have very long tails, and how life itself began on Earth.

Above all, you will learn how to think about biology, so that in your day-to-day life you will understand the significance and complexities of news stories, medical issues, and public debates, not to mention what is going on in your own garden and in nature all around you.

The Unifying Themes of Biology

Professor Nowicki presents the subject in a conceptual format, emphasizing the importance of broad principles. Facts and details are offered in abundance, but in the context of developing a framework that listeners can absorb.

The course is organized around three unifying themes:

Starting with "Information and Evolution" (Lectures 1-24), you investigate how information about the structure and organization of living things is found in the DNA molecule, how this information is transmitted and modified, and the implications of these processes for understanding life. One important conclusion of this discussion is that species inevitably change over time; that is, that life evolves.

In "Development and Homeostasis" (Lectures 25-48), you consider two related issues for understanding the workings of complex organisms: how single cells (fertilized eggs) proliferate and transform into complex, multicellular organisms, and how parts of complex organisms remain coordinated and maintain their integrity in the face of different challenges.

In "Energy and Resources" (Lectures 49-72), you learn how living systems obtain the energy and other materials needed to maintain their highly ordered state and the implications of these processes for understanding the organization of biology at all levels of scale. Ultimately this investigation leads into the discipline of ecology and to considerations of energy and resource limitations for the entire planet.

Dr. Stephen Nowicki is a Bass Fellow, Professor of Biology, and the Dean and Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education at Duke University. He also holds appointments in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and in the Neurobiology Department at Duke University Medical Center. The recipient of several prestigious fellowships, Professor Nowicki also won Duke University's celebrated Robert B. Cox Distinguished Teaching Award.

72 Lectures - 30 minutes each

1: The Scope of "Life" 37: Homeostasis
2: More on the Origin of Life 38: Hormones in Animals
3: The Organism and the Cell 39: What is Special about Neurons?
4: Proteins - How Things Get Done in the Cell 40: Action Potentials and Synapses
5: Which Molecule Holds the Code? 41: Synaptic Integration and Memory
6: The Double Helix 42: Sensory Function
7: The Nuts and Bolts of Replicating DNA 43: How Muscles Work
8: The Central Dogma 44: The Innate Immune System
9: The Genetic Code 45: The Acquired Immune System
10: From DNA to RNA 46: Form and Function in Plants I
11: From RNA to Protein 47: Form and Function in Plants II
12: When Mistakes Happen 48: Behavior as an Adaptive Trait
13: Dividing DNA Between Dividing Cells 49: Energy and Resources in Living Systems
14: Mendel and His Pea Plants 50: How Energy is Harnessed by Cells
15: How Sex Leads to Variation 51: Enzymes - Making Chemistry Work in Cells
16: Genes and Chromosomes 52: Cellular Currencies of Energy
17: Charles Darwin and "The Origin of Species" 53: Making ATP - Glycolysis
18: Natural Selection in Action 54: Making ATP - Cellular Respiration
19: Reconciling Darwin and Mendel 55: Making ATP - The Chemiosmotic Theory
20: Mechanisms of Evolutionary Change 56: Capturing Energy from Sunlight
21: What Are Species and How Do New Ones Arise? 57: The Reactions of Photosynthesis
22: More on the Origin of New Species 58: Resources and Life Histories
23: Reconstructing Evolution 59: The Structure of Populations
24: The History of Life, Revisited 60: Population Growth
25: From Cells to Organisms 61: What Limits Population Growth?
26: Control of Gene Expression I 62: Costs and Benefits of Behavior
27: Control of Gene Expression II 63: Altruism and Mate Selection
28: Getting Proteins to the Right Place 64: Ecological Interactions Among Species
29: Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology 65: Predators and Competitors
30: How Cells Talk - Signals and Receptors 66: Competition and the Ecological Niche
31: How Cells Talk - Ways That Cells Respond 67: Energy in Ecosystems
32: From One Cell to Many in an Organism 68: Nutrients in Ecosystems
33: Patterns of Early Development 69: How Predictable Are Ecological Communities?
34: Determination and Differentiation 70: Biogeography
35: Induction and Pattern Formation 71: Human Population Growth
36: Genes and Development 72: The Human Asteroid


The Science of Life
Lectures by Professor Stephen Nowicki

Sioux Falls Scientists endorse Biology: The Science of Life for an
excellent overview of the subject. A great deal has since been
discovered, but this course will give you the basics.