Category Archives: Chemistry of Life (Core & AHL)

The Path to ATP

Back in 2014Eleanor Lutz created “How To Build A Human” which has been shared a lot recently – so I went back to her blog to see what is there and wow!

Here is a new (and helpful) infographic for HL Bio, “The Path to ATP”. Think a simpler version of Gerhad Michel’s famous Roche Biochemical Pathways.

Read the rest of this entry

Thrift Shop Parody: TCA (Kreb’s) Cycle Rap

Pitched just a little over HL, but very well done and super catchy, here’s Wilson Lam’s Thrift Shop Parody:

Related, of course, is Tom McFadden’s Oxidate It Or Love It:

And if all that’s too musical, here’s Hank:

Wringing out a wet towel in the ISS

This is a neat connection to the properties of water:


Periodic Table for Biologists Poster

I forgot this existed…

Periodic Table for Biologists poster.

This is designed to address some of the assessment statements for the Chemistry of Life unit, and to provide a clear wall-chart that is free to use and free from advertising. I recently updated it with relative atomic masses and a couple of corrections. Download the full A0 poster here:

On a related and interesting note, here’s a little video by Periodic Videos on the Japanese discovery of element 113:

Making ATP: Core content concept maps

In tomorrow’s class we’ll be reviewing our Making ATP unit (enzymes, cell respiration, photosynthesis and the greenhouse effect) with a couple of concept mapping activities. The first, cell respiration core, is made using the really useful free concept mapping tool from IHMC CMap tools. This is a freeware package for most computing platforms – very easy to use and might be a help in your revision!

In the second activity, build your own concept map making as many annotated connections between concepts as you can. Surrounding this, add and annotate the relevant graphs and diagrams.

Biology Crash Course | Entertaining 12-min Bio brain dumps!

CrashCourse Biology is a new(ish) and definitely more entertaining and engaging alternative to Khan Academy. Hank Green follows his brother John’s example (World History) and is producing some pretty funny, fast-paced and visual presentations for key concepts in Biology. One feature I like is the short ‘history of the idea‘ section in each video.

Here’s an example on the properties of water:

Another feature I like is that the video description has links to sections within the video, making review easier. He also includes a set of citations (more like links to follow to find out more). So although they can be embedded, you are much better off watching them on his channel.

Hank also has another channel, SciShow, which has short, sharp videos on science – whatever the topic. Here are a couple of examples from his playlist.

FoldIt (MrT’s favourite game):

And this on Mendeleev’s Periodic Table:


I first heard about these channels via Fractus Learning, but didn’t get a chance to look until this weekend, searching for periodic table resources and Lewis Dots. When Crash Course popped up again, I figured it was time to have a look. 

Drew Berry’s Animations of Unseeable Biology [TED Talk]

In 2011, Drew Berry’s animation of the role of breast stem cells won the Imagine Science Film Festival award for visual science (posted here). In this TED Talk, he explains how and why he and his team have put together these accurate representations of invisible cellular processes. The talk shows some examples of the animations, including a really great segment on mitosis and what is happening when spindle microtubules attach and contract.

For more excellent animations, visit the Walter and Elizabeth Hall Institute (WEHI) TV Channel, or their YouTube channel.

The effective communication of Science is an Art.

How Epigenetics Works

Neil deGrasse Tyson presents this short PBS NOVA overview of how epigenetics determines the differences between gene expressions in identical twins, how epigenetic variations build up over time and how it affects us. A relatively new, but very interesting field of medicine and genetics, this is a good introduction.

Epigenetics is not directly mentioned in our syllabus, but does help us to connect the ideas of nature vs nurture, genetic variation and inheritance. To what extent does the nurture of our cellular environment (lifestyle) affect the genetic nature of who we are?

For some more really good resources on epigenetics, visit the brilliant Learn.Genetics site from Utah.

Thanks to Ed Yong for posting this on his weekly links roundup.

It’s Movember! Grow a mo and raise awareness of cancer.

Serendipitously timed, Grade 11 are looking at cell division as some of the male teachers are growing their mo’s for Movember:

“Men sporting Movember moustaches, known as Mo Bros, become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November* and through their actions and words raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health.”

From the MoVember website.

*Actually, we’re doing Nov 10th – Dec 10th, due to the holiday and being a bit slow on the uptake.

So what’s it got to do with Biology?

Well, tumours – such as prostate and testicular cancer in men; breast, uterine, cervical and ovarian cancer in women; and cancer of everything else in everyone else – are simply the result of uncontrolled cell division. Through apoptosis (programmed cell death) or damage (necrosis), cells are destroyed. These need to be replaced with other cells. As our cells are eukaryotic, they need to go through mitosis to ensure that complete copies of all the chromosomes make it into both daughter cells.

As with other cell processes, this is controlled by genes and, importantly, terminated when the cells have grown appropriately. If there is a mutation or problem with a tumour-suppressor gene, such as TP53, the process of cell division is not stopped and the cells grow out of control. This is a tumour. Alternatively, mutations can affect other genes (oncogenes), which encourage further growth.

Click here for a good 11-minute documentary on cancer development, from CancerQuest.

Tumours can start out benign – growths of cells that are not harmful. If these cells become malignant and invade other cells and damage tissues, this is known as cancer. Damage to other cells and tissues leads to illness and can be fatal if not treated early. As tumours grow, they can recruit blood vessels – called angiogenesis. Now you run the risk of metastasis – cells from the tumour breaking off, flowing through the blood and starting a new aggressive tumour in a different part of the body.

Environmental factors can encourage mutations in key cell-cycle-controlling genes. We all know, for example, that smoking can cause lung cancer, UV radiation can lead to skin cancer and the HPV virus can cause cervical cancer.

So why all the fuss about Movember?

Simply, men’s cancers receive less media attention and men tend to be less willing to talk openly about their health problems (unless, of course, they’re trying to get sympathy with a case of man-flu). As guys tend to put off going to the doctor and generally live a lifestyle that is higher-risk for cancer (high fat, high meat, alcohol, smoking, lack of exercise…), tumours can go unnoticed. Men are less likely to survive a cancer diagnosis than their more health-conscious lady friends.

Through cultivating the moustache, we can start conversations about these issues, raise money for education, prevention, research and treatment and promote anti-cancer behaviours:

  1. Healthy lifestyle choices and awareness of risk
  2. Self-checking and regular screening for at-risk groups
  3. Early diagnosis of and treatment for tumours, should they arise (animation)

So get mo-tivated and join the mo-alition of the willing. Take a mo-ment to think about cell division. And mo-an at the men in your life to make healthy choices. Ladies too can get involved – by becoming Mo-Sistas and also raising awareness. The BIS Team are called the BIS Upper Lips!

In the video above, he talks about how genome mapping can lead to giving an indicator of risk to men. Great technology, based on the Human Genome Project (link to 4.4 Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology).

For the class resources on 2.5 Cell Division, click here. Interestingly, and obviously, hair growth itself is a product of cell division. Something to think about as you grow the mo, yo.

Evolution (Core)

Ecuador Hummingbirds

Ecuador Hummingbirds

Start with this reading on Evolution and Darwin: and then watch this video of evolutionary researchers in action in Ecuador.

In the clip below, is Ross using the correct language when he describes the theory and evidence for evolution?

Here is the class presentation

And the Essential Biology notes can be found here:

There are many sources of interactives and animations on Evolution on the internet. Here are a few:

PBS Evolution has lots of high-quality activities and videos

BiologyInMotion has a very clear population evolution interactive

The Exploring Evolution weblab has examples of homologous structures and fossil evidence

MMHE has a pesticide resistance tutorial

And there are some good peppered moth simulations here and here

As always, sumanas has a great resource – this time on antibiotic resistance

And John Kyrk has a truly awesome timeline of the evolution of life

Darwin resources:

Attenborough on Darwin: The Tree Of Life

Dawkins Darwin Lectures from OU/BBC

And of course, all of Darwin’s works are available online from

And here’s Dawkins on the evolution of the eye:

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