AP Biology: Some historical context for genetics

The one big problem with AP biology (although it's getting better) is that it often discourages critical thinking. The problem is information overload.

I think I have the solution. Schema. There's a concept that your brain develops an "outline" for your entire perception of the universe. The more sophisticated your outline, the more effectively you can store information in one part of your mind and connect it with other things you've done, seen, and learned.

Schema is the building of this outline.

The trouble with too much information and not enough schema is that a student never gets the chance to be creative and constructive, at least not until graduate school. But it's this critical creativity which lets you connect the dots and maybe win a Nobel Prize. Like these people did:

Click here to see the photo that changed the game.

The purpose of this video is threefold. First of all, I want to help give credit where credit is due. A lot of people made invaluable contributions to the discovery of the double helix. Only a few of them got the recognition they deserve.

Second, for my AP Biology students, I wanted to give you a story and help you build some schema. This will help you on your quest for AP Biology excellence. It will create a context for all those names and experiments and proteins and organisms.

Third, I want to illustrate the importance of creative thinking. James Watson was essentially a bird-watcher playing with chemical molecules. Yet he saw what nobody else did because he was immensely creative. (And very lucky.)

Many of you are taking AP biology just to get it out of the way so you can focus on studying other things that are more important to you. That's OK. But keep in mind that when you know the story behind the bare facts that are being crammed into your head, you'll learn more and better. And faster. With less pain.

As for Watson, Wilkins, and Crick--they deserved their prize. So did others. They happened to come together at the right time and place, and get exposed to all the right information.

That information, by the way, includes the famous Photo 51 taken by Rosalind Franklin and her student. You can view it here:



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