Energy and Chemical Reactions
31/08/2010 § 1 Comment
Our last lecture of the unit was about enzymes, energy and the chemical reactions that help our bodies function. Thankfully, this class was far easier to follow, most likely because it was the last one and was not the hardest level. Next Monday, the class faces their very first test and must finally answer the essay question that we’ve all (supposed to have) been focusing on for the past week: How does complexity emerge from simplicity?
I was suggested to keep the question simple and maybe to broaden my mind first to all the possible ways to explain the answer to our essay question. I thought that protein was a good way to explain how little things, amino acids or even the information in DNA starts off a chain reaction that eventually becomes this intricate organ or individual: a human being. I thought that perhaps proteins would be a very good and a very safe way to properly explain how complex structures form from little molecules and atoms. It was one part of the unit that wasn’t hard for me to follow and to understand, so logically, it would be a good method to answer the essay question with.
In class, we studied how enzymes work, what they do, why they do it, and if I remember correctly, we were given multiple examples of molecules being broken down quickly because of the enzymes working on what needed to be collapsed or connected.
We learned that in every chemical reaction, there should first be what is called activation energy to sort of ‘push off’ the chemical reaction. The way the textbook described activation energy was to imagine a large boulder rolling down the hill. The act of the boulder rolling is the chemical reaction itself but before it starts down the hill, it needs to be push. The push is the activation energy. However, although activation energy starts the chemical reaction and is the reason that reactions occur, they sometimes take much of the time in changing or transporting energy. (As seen in the multiple charts shown in class). Sometimes, it is unhealthy for our body to transfer or transform energy slowly so we have enzymes to speed up the work.
Enzymes are substances that increase the speed of a chemical reaction accordingly. But! Enzymes, in a way, don’t just help a chemical reaction move along quickly, but they help our bodies survive. Enzymes are like problem solvers, as we saw in class with Mr. Ferguson’s story of the wise man, the camels and the three brothers who couldn’t decide how many camels their father really left them. (But really, why did the father have to leave behind such a difficult-to-understand will?) The wise man had willingly given the three brothers his camel, turning nineteen camels into twenty, therefore making life so much easier for the three brothers. This story makes a lot of sense to me, because the lucky twentieth camel’s name was Enzyme and he acted exactly like an enzyme. In assisting the substrates (the other camels), Enzyme, the camel was able to let a group of ten, a group of five, and a group of four camels go easily. Thanks to the story, I understood better what enzymes were and really how important they are.
Just a while ago, I mentioned substrates. Substrates are the substances an enzyme acts on during the chemical reaction and the substance that holds energy that needs to be transformed, transported, or changed. When an enzyme acts on a substrate, or substrates, the two different types of substances have to fit each other like a lock and key. The substrates fit into the enzyme’s active site and the chemical reaction takes place.
Returning to the essay question, though, I think the information that related most to the process of simplicity becoming complexity, was the information where amino acids came back into the picture. As Vineet repeatedly stated through the class, “Amino acids make proteins, which make enzymes. Enzymes are then used for speeding up the process of breaking down or making products.” Once again, there is a smaller unit that makes enzymes and proteins, the amino acids. And the amino acids are made, of course, with the proteins and nutrients and other enzymes that we consume. However, our bodies know how to make amino acids because of: DNA. The genetic code in our DNA and in their nucleic acids contain very important information that states what kind of proteins and enzymes we really need. In doing so, our DNA keeps us very much alive, too.
The genetic part previously mentioned wasn’t talked about much in class but will help me greatly, in my opinion. For the essay question, I will continue to develop ideas and explanations from proteins and water, because I’m also beginning to understand the characteristics of water further. Unfortunately … I think this is the last chemistry of biology unit we might have and I still don’t know what our next unit will be. Just to say it now, I liked this unit. My dad said himself that biology and chemistry are incredible topics and he was right.