Click the video above for 2 minutes of background waves while reading.
I like walking on the beach. It is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.
With a topic in mind, I need to set the stage – so I researched.
The 26 letters in our alphabet offer 456,976 possible combinations of three-letter words- but most are not words. English also has about 16,000 three-letter words. Sources state the English language has about 172,000 words – but I only wondered about those with four letters.
Instead of 26 letters, what if our alphabet only had four letters? There would only be 64 three-letter possible words. And what if the letters were three consonants and a vowel – let’s say A G C T. What good would that language be?
What if the language only speaks in a string of sentences? That is, no other punctuation but a sentence with a capital letter and ending with a period. There are no question marks, exclamation points, or punctuation within the sentence. A language delivering a message as a mere string of letters?
Today’s humanity can identify the three-letter words in a four-letter alphabet – plus the start and ending points of the sentence. We can even clip and replace an entire section of letters. Thinking about this language is amazing – a language that has been around for millions of years, yet researchers identified its structure only a relatively short time ago. What if those four letters were the language for all living things?
I think about how today we use this language to identify and then cure diseases and illnesses – even create vaccines and foods. Yes, my thoughts today are about the language of life with a four-letter alphabet of A G C T. Yes – these are the structural letters of deoxyribonucleic acid – DNA
DNA – those 64 combinations of three letters dictate the entire living world as we know it. The three-letter words are for one of 20 amino acids – only one starts the sentence as the capital letter – but three combinations can act as the period – the punctuation. Before the next sentence begins, a string of nonfunctional letters may exist. I think of it as biological gobbledygook.
I think about how only 20 amino acids serve as the basis for all the structures and functions across the spectrum of life as we know it. Yes, not only my life – but also the life of all the fish of the sea, the animals, plants, and fungi on land, and even the bacteria and single-celled life. All living things may not have the same parts or do processes the same way; but in their way, they deal with nutrition, transportation, metabolism, waste removal, reproduction, and awareness.
I think about DNA being highly coiled and found in every living cell – yet as I look at all the shells that I see as I walk – and think – those were homes for life. How long would their DNA be if strung together? No doubt, longer than the miles that I walk each day.
Tightly packed into our 46 chromosomes, human DNA is a thin thread of six feet (two meters) in length. That’s for one cell – now imagine the human body having 30 trillion cells. And to think all my DNA is the same. All that DNA in each of us originates when the one sperm fertilizes one egg and became each of us. I find that fascinating.
I find it interesting that sentences of DNA are turned on or off at certain times – something that is also embedded in the code. Others may need an outside stimulus to cause activation. Just think, a liver cell and a brain cell contain identical DNA, yet the two cells look and function very differently. Yes, DNA contains the code for differentiating.
Some say passions such as a love for music, food, language, religion, and country is in their DNA. Although aspects of certain natural skills may be encoded in DNA, I have to respectfully disagree because many aspects of life and culture are learned behaviors – not ones passed from one generation to the next by DNA. However, I say it as a figure of speech, but I believe the human drive to explore is embedded in our DNA. Certain skills may be in our DNA, but using those skills is another story.
DNA is our personal history. Some people what to learn more about their past, so they submit their DNA for analysis. Our heritage is part of who we are – but our DNA is not our only identity.
Although DNA identifies our family, family is more than DNA. Family is love, respect, communication, nurturing, traditions, and more. DNA may not connect the adopted to their new parents and siblings, but they are very much part of a family. Other people have a strong connection with someone who is like a brother, sister, mother, or father, but they are not DNA related.
DNA is the personal history of all of humanity. DNA embeds answers about our ancient past, but other aspects of DNA seem like mysteries of the sea.
Mutations are changes in the DNA code that one generation passes to the next. While some mutations have a negative effect, some are positive or have no effect.
Today’s world involves genetic scissors that cut a DNA sequence at a specific location – cutting to edit for removing genetic code and even replacing it. The application in treating diseases and improving agriculture seems endless.
The amount of new knowledge about DNA during my lifetime is staggering. After all, scientists received a Nobel Prize for explaining DNA’s structure during the year of my birth. Since then, geneticists have successfully mapped the entire human sequence, and are now engaging with a new frontier. Perhaps each wave of the sea represents new information available in the field of genetics – and the waves keep coming.
As I walk on the beach, I see living and once-living organisms. The sea to my side contains much more life than I see now. I see a jellyfish washed ashore, I now wonder: How much of my DNA is similar to theirs? I’m guessing probably more than I think.
DNA – that magical substance within life providing both answers and questions – and all embedded in a four-letter alphabet that is one of the languages of life. I am confident that most of the public has limited knowledge and understanding of this spectacular molecular structure – but it still has been worth pondering as I walk. After all, walking on the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.
See what other bloggers have posted about DNA
- DNA (a poem by a visitor here)
- DNA Strands in Wonder (an essay)
- A Doggie DNA Christmas (an essay by a visitor here)
- My Kitty and His DNA (an essay)
- Shocked by my DNA test (a personal essay)
- Life is a Biochemical Process (an understandable essay)
- DNA (a comic strip)
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