Themes in the Study of Life Essay

5753 Words Dec 22nd, 2013 24 Pages
Chapter 1 Introduction: Themes in the Study of Life
Lecture Outline
Overview: Inquiring About Life
• Organisms are adapted to the environments they live in.
• These adaptations are the result of evolution, the fundamental organizing principle of biology and the core theme of this book.
• Posing questions about the living world and seeking science-based answers are the central activities of biology, the scientific study of life.
• Biologists ask a wide variety of ambitious questions.
○ They may ask how a single cell becomes a tree or a dog, how the human mind works, or how the living things in a forest interact.
• Biologists can help answer questions that affect our lives in practical ways.
• What is life?
○ The phenomenon
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• Biologists are beginning to complement reductionism with new strategies for studying whole systems.
○ The ultimate goal of systems biology is to model the dynamic behavior of whole biological systems based on a study of the interactions among the system’s parts.
○ Successful models allow biologists to predict how a change in one or more variables will affect other components as well as the whole system.
• The systems approach enables scientists to pose new kinds of questions.
○ How might a drug that lowers blood pressure affect the functions of organs throughout the human body?
○ How might increasing a crop’s water supply affect processes in the plants, such as the storage of molecules essential for human nutrition?
○ How might a gradual increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide alter ecosystems and the entire biosphere?
• The ultimate aim of systems biology is to answer large-scale questions like the last one.
• Scientists investigating ecosystems pioneered the systems approach in the 1960s with elaborate models diagramming the interactions of species and nonliving components in ecosystems such as salt marshes.
• Systems biology is now becoming increasingly important in cellular and molecular biology.
Theme 2: Organisms interact with other organisms and the physical environment.
• Each organism interacts with its environment, which includes both other organisms and physical factors.

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