The Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the Twenty-first Century

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Turgenev book Download eventlog inspector 2. The Ripple Effect Book - Goodreads The World Is Flat 3. The Next Years has 2, ratings and reviews. Friedman] on Amazon. A countdown clock to count the time left to a date of your choice. To create your own countdown, for your own date, with your own look and feel, follow the link at Nuclear Weapons in the Twenty-First Century Stephen M. The structures of many molecules were determined and this has provided the basis for their synthesis and also their production on an industrial scale.

A notable example are the vitamins: small organic compounds that function as cofactors in many biochemical reactions in the human body. Today, vitamin supplements play an important role in public health, because they can complement deficiencies in the supply or metabolism of naturally occurring vitamins. In addition to characterising and synthesising a vast number of natural products, chemists have also designed compounds de novo. In the s, an entirely new class of organic molecules called fullerenes was discovered.

They belong to a hitherto unknown form of carbon. Fullerenes have football- or cigar-like structures. This furnishes materials with novel, very interesting and possibly useful properties. Major progress was also made in the synthesis of tailor-made polymers, composite materials, and ceramics.

The Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the Twenty-first Century

Some of the latter were shown to be capable of superconduction. Recent advances in supramolecular chemistry have already had an impact on materials design. On the more theoretical side, advances in quantum chemistry, with the help of appropriate computer programmes, has enabled the calculation of electron density maps of molecules, which has greatly increased chemists' understanding of the principles determining the stability and properties of molecules.

Thus, some of the chemical properties of molecules can now be deduced starting from fundamental laws of physics. Organic chemistry was instrumental to the great advances in understanding the structure and function of biomolecules. This has had an enormous impact on the bio-medical sciences.

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For instance, in , the first naturally occurring protein hormone oxytocin was analysed and then synthesised. For the first time, it was shown that an artificially produced protein has exactly the same properties as those naturally produced. The synthesis of insulin, a life-saving protein for diabetics, followed shortly thereafter.

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In , the three-dimensional structure of haemoglobin the oxygen-transporting molecule that makes blood red was determined at atomic resolution. Since then, the structures of thousands of biologically important molecules have been described. This knowledge plays an increasingly important role in the development of novel diagnostics and therapeutics. Aided by fast computers, medicinal chemists increasingly use the knowledge of bio-molecular structures to design small compounds with very specific pharmacological properties.

Modern biochemistry, a combination of the traditional fields of physiology and pathology with all branches of the chemical sciences, has made crucial contributions both to our understanding of life processes and to medicine. Many of the thousands of chemical reactions keeping an organism alive have been described. Today, biochemists understand how cells can break down sugar and other foodstuffs to generate biologically useful energy in a remarkably efficient way.


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They have discovered how plant cells use CO2 and the energy of sunlight to synthesise organic material. Furthermore, the causes of many inborn metabolic errors have been discovered by biochemical research, thus providing a basis for diagnosis and therapy. Another breakthrough was brought about by the experiments addressing the fundamental question of the generation of life on earth. In the early s, experiments were performed to explore the genesis of the first organic compounds out of inorganic ones under the supposed conditions of the earth's surface some 3.


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  • Under the appropriate conditions, it was shown that organic molecules emerged that could well have been the building blocks of early life. Although many of these results are somewhat hypothetical, it has become quite clear that the genesis of life on earth was possible on the basis of physical and chemical principles alone, without the need to invoke supernatural forces.

    Today, the preferred hypothesis concerning the origin of life on earth holds that life made its first appearance in the form of RNA molecules capable of catalysing their own synthesis. Therefore, chemical evolution might well have led to the first key molecules of life, furnishing the earth with the prerequisites of biological evolution. New knowledge, at the molecular as well as the infra- and supra-molecular level, is growing rapidly. The chemical sciences are also contributing to the environmental sciences.

    For example, they provide new materials and contribute to the development of new means of crop protection, as well as animal and human health. Towards the end of the s, biochemical evidence accumulated in support of the hypothesis that genes are made of deoxyribonucleic acid DNA. Genes are the hereditary units governing the biological transmission of traits from parents to offspring in all species. Biologists had already speculated that the key to understanding how genes can transmit biological information from generation to generation must be sought in their molecular structure.

    Using techniques mainly developed in physics, this structure was uncovered in and was shown to be a double-helix.

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    Once the structure of DNA was established, the next question was how the cell 'reads' the genetic information stored in its DNA. In a remarkably short time, a small group of molecular biologists cracked the so-called 'genetic code'. This specifies how the sequence of DNA building blocks is translated into a sequence of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. With a few minor exceptions, the genetic code turned out to be the same for all organisms.

    Subsequently, the basic mechanisms of protein synthesis were elucidated and shown to involve another previously known form of nucleic acid, namely RNA. This discovery was followed by the isolation and description of the enzymes which copy and repair DNA.


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    • Since this so-called 'molecular revolution' in biology, much progress has been made towards understanding the myriad of mechanisms by which a cell's genome directs the biochemical processes allowing the cell to survive, divide, and fulfil specific functions in multicellular organisms. The activity of most genes is tightly regulated by intricate molecular mechanisms. For some very simple organisms like bacteria and bacteriophage viruses infecting bacteria , these mechanisms are now fairly well understood. The question of how the activity of specific genes is controlled during the development of multicellular organisms for instance, a fly, a mouse, or a human being is at the very heart of contemporary research in molecular biology.

      Remarkable progress is currently being made in this area in laboratories all around the world. In addition to being of primary scientific interest, this research has already begun to provide important insights into the causes of human diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes, to name just a few. Many of the molecular mechanisms which maintain the body's defence against diseases are known today. To mention just one example, in the s after many years of research, immunologists discovered the molecular machinery by which the immune system can make a vast number of different antibodies, each fitted to a specific molecular structure foreign to the body.

      This kind of knowledge, which continues to grow steadily, plays an increasingly important role in the development of novel therapies.

      Clearly, this would not have been possible without the preceding molecular revolution. The new molecular biology has also revolutionised areas such as cell biology and neurobiology. Molecular biology has a technological spin-off which quickly became one of the most promising and controversial innovations of 20th century science: the first artificially recombined DNA molecules were produced in the s.

      This was made possible by the preceding discovery and characterisation of a number of enzymes which cut or chemically modify DNA, most notably restriction enzymes. In applying a set of methods collectively known as 'genetic engineering', molecular biologists can manipulate DNA molecules practically at their will. In vitro recombined DNA molecules can be reintroduced into various species by gene transfer techniques. Species which can be easily genetically altered today include bacteria, yeast, fruit flies, mice, and several plant species.

      Isolated human cells can also be genetically engineered. Strong ethical concerns exist about introducing genetic modifications into fertilised human zygotes. However, there can be little doubt that it is possible in principle, and that this practice has the potential to revolutionise the prevention of severe genetic disorders.

      Genetic engineering techniques rapidly became an indispensable tool for biological and biomedical research. Many biological mechanisms are elucidated today by introducing specific changes into individual genes and observing their phenotypic effects. Genetic information is now easily accessible through rapid DNA sequencing techniques. By comparing DNA sequences, molecular biologists gain important insights into the function and evolution of genes. Complete genomic DNA sequences are available for various microorganisms, including several pathogenic bacteria and viruses, as well as yeast.

      In a few years time, the full sequence of various animal and plant genomes will be available and will provide invaluable information on the biology of these organisms. Finally, the biggest large-scale project in the history of biology, the Human Genome Project, is approaching its completion. Experts estimate that it will be completed as early as in the first decade of the 21st century.

      The human genomic DNA sequence will be extremely useful to bio-medical scientists for understanding how the human body functions and how diseases originate. However, the Human Genome Project has also raised strong ethical issues. These include the possible misuse of such knowledge, the protection of individual privacy, intellectual property rights, and the protection of universal access to public information. For this reason, the Human Genome Project is accompanied by studies of the potentially far-reaching social consequences the new genetics may have.

      The possible applications of genetic engineering in biotechnology and medicine are only beginning to materialise.

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      Genetically engineered crop plants have been bred which harbour genes resistant to various plant pathogens. There is an increasing number of therapeutic and diagnostic pharmaceutical products which are made by genetically engineered bacteria. Promising advances have been made in somatic gene therapy, where genetic defects are repaired in certain types of cells or tissues.

      During the last half century, a vast number of different pharmaceuticals have been developed. The use of antibiotics for treatment of infectious diseases goes back to World War II, but only two were known in After the war, a host of new antibacterial substances were discovered and systematically improved.