An introduction to DNA

I decided to take the biology stuff ‘from the top‘ and this is as far as I’ll go today:

…This is pure gold. I’m currenty at chapter 9 in Russell’s Genetics…, which is about ‘The Organization of DNA in Chromosomes’, after having read the chapter about ‘The Structure of Genetic Material’ (‘the chemical composition of DNA and RNA’). So I can tell you that Sal’s treatment is, as he also mentions himself again and again, grossly simplified – some of this is very complex stuff. However ‘the basics’ needn’t be that hard to get, and Salman Khan does his best to make this stuff approachable, even to people with very little knowledge of biology.

Today’s been a great day where I feel like I’ve learned a lot. If you’ve liked (some of..?) the videos I’ve posted from Khan Academy so far, then you really should go make a user profile (one can log in via google or facebook) and start exploring more systematically. There’s a lot of good stuff here.


July 12, 2011 - Posted by | Biology, Genetics, Khan Academy, Lectures


  1. For someone like me who mainly did languages in high school this is pure gold.

    I’m currently going through what seems to be equivalent of the HS the B-level chemistry curriculum. “Sadly” five hours of Khan Academy videos have gotten me through roughly half of the curriculum… I’m somewhat shocked that to see that the curriculum isn’t larger

    Comment by Pollux | July 13, 2011 | Reply

    • And that would seem to be C-level chemistry, but the point still stands…

      Comment by Pollux | July 13, 2011 | Reply

  2. This is part of what I have found very funny about going through a lot of exercises these last couple of days; I keep asking myself: Did we really spend that much time learning that stuff??? Was it not much harder? I really disliked long division back in the day; earlier today I spent 5-10 minutes refreshing by watching a video and then I did the exercises afterwards without problems. I always knew I had very inefficient (/not super competent) teachers pre-HS (all public school/folkeskole), but the scale of that inefficiency just seems – even when taking relevant mental age constraints into account – huge to me today. Remembering back I kind of think it also did back then; like when everybody in the class would sit and cringe for two minutes of the lecture while listening to one poor guy spelling his way through a piece he’s obviously not read. Both him and me would have benefited from a more Khan-style learning process.


    A C-level course corresponds to 75 hours, according to this:

    Translating to university levels, that’d be about 2,67 ECTS points, or little more than 1/4th of a standard course. I don’t doubt Khan can cover that amount of coursework in much less time than that, but you’d probably need to put in more than 10 hours anyway to pass an exam, even if you’ve covered all the stuff by watching his videos. Learning does take time, and I tend to believe that watching Khan-videos can sometimes be a little like attending lectures; the stuff seems easy and simple when you watch it – but it’s not always easy and simple when you need to apply it yourself – and if you’re not careful, you’ll think you’ve learned something even if you really haven’t.

    Anyway, it’s wonderful news to me to hear that others (well, you..) have also “found Khan” and now use this great resource.

    Comment by US | July 13, 2011 | Reply

  3. Having raced through the chemistry stuff the way I have today I’m positive that I haven’t learnt all of what I have seen but at no point have I had the feeling that I didn’t understand what was going on – except of course for the things that Sal himself sort of skips over with rudimentary explanations. From here on it is only a matter of doing a few exercises and the stuff will sink in pretty well. If only I had some practical use of the stuff…

    In my experience a 10 ECTS AU econ course corresponds roughly to 10 very effective working days (~10 hours each), maybe a bit more at the master’s level. I know that I learn new stuff quite fast but it still shocks me that it is possible to obtain quite good grades without having studied much/at all during the semester and then going all-in in the month or so before the exams.

    I enjoy the freedom that the Danish system provides us students with, but from a learning perspective I don’t doubt that (for me) it would be better to be graded according to multiple criteria such as class participation, assignments, mid-terms, etc.

    Comment by Pollux | July 13, 2011 | Reply

    • I didn’t know I had readers with familiarity with my own education, interesting.

      I have to add to your comment though that, as I’m sure you know, “a” 10 ECTS AU econ course can be many different things. The work burden is very different from course to course and it’s a well known secret that courses in statistics and math-heavy courses are generally more demanding. There’s just no way anyone would pass, say, Econometrics with a reasonable grade without putting in more than 100 hours, unless their ‘inherent ability’ is very high – I put in close to 100 hours during the exam alone (though maybe that’ll change in the future, I’ve heard that they’re thinking about splitting the course up into two…). There are also courses where it is not even possible to go up to the exam without having handed in multiple hand-ins along the way, implicitly enforcing a not-too-low level of activity during the semester.

      I would also benefit from a system using multiple metrics as I’m very bad at exams and generally do quite badly whether I know the stuff or not, because I’m horrible under pressure for various reasons. But one big reason why the signalling effect of the econ education is on average, stronger(?), than the cand.merc is precisely this difference as to how people think about their education. The mentality is different. My big brother is a cand.merc and my little brother is enrolled at CBS, and from what they’ve told me (my big brother has said it directly) business students aren’t really students (studerende) – they’re more like grown up pupils (elever). In the general setting, the more classes there are, the less work you have to do on your own, the less initiative you need to show yourself in order to pass (because in the general setting the required total work burden is supposedly fixed and corresponds to the ECTS-values). Business students at the bachelor level generally have a lot of classes and they often don’t need to do much, if anything, once they’re back home (at CBS some of them have classes where they do the exercises together!). If you want someone who’s willing to turn up at work and do the job he’s told, I guess that’s fine. If you want something more, like a signal that an individual is willing to and able to work independently even if monitoring is relatively limited, an education like that basically doesn’t give you much new information about those other relevant abilities. I’m not exactly fond of the exam-only evaluation and I’d be one of those who’d benefit immensely from a change there, but from a signalling perspective it’s not all bad, if you manage to get through the hoops. It’s not mainly about learning. Formal education’s all about getting through the hoops.

      Comment by US | July 13, 2011 | Reply

      • Also, just to emphasize, if one can take an econ course here and get a good grade by putting in high effort in a 10-day period before the exam, one’s inherent ability is probably quite high – unless perhaps it’s a course from the part of the business section without math which I have no respect for whatsoever, where a ‘model’ is something you draw (/there are hard courses in the business part too, e.g. some of the finance courses). That’s not what the average student would have to put in for most courses. And you’re probably right that the requirements are higher for courses at the master’s level; at least when it comes to the few master’s level courses I’ve taken you’d have no chance in hell passing and getting a good grade just by putting in 100 hours, even if you’re (not-insanely..) smart. Maybe with some luck you’d pass, but get an A or a B? Forget about it.

        Comment by US | July 13, 2011

  4. Forresten, den her kan vi lige så godt tage på dansk: Hvis du bor i byen og læser samme sted ville jeg da sådan set overhovedet ikke have noget imod at møde dig AFK, hvis det er noget du er interesseret i. Min anonymitet er mest knyttet til overvejelser vdr. min potentielle ‘googlebarhed’ fremadrettet, det andet betyder ikke så meget som det gjorde engang, men måske har du det anderledes (eller tror jeg er et dumt svin ‘in person’, eller..) og i så fald respekterer jeg selvfølgelig det.

    Du kan svare herunder, så kan vi tage evt. opfølgning via mail. Jeg har allerede din mailadresse (den du bruger til kommentarvalidering) da den fremgår på min kommentaroversigt.

    Hvis læsere fra København læser med kan jeg ved samme lejlighed sige, at jeg er i Købehavn i midt-august og nok får lidt tid til mig selv til den tid, hvis jeg tager det (og det gør jeg). Så der vil sandsynligvis også være muligheder dér. [denne del af kommentaren ikke kun henvendt til, men selvfølgelig også henvendt til, info]

    Comment by US | July 13, 2011 | Reply

  5. Send mig da endelig en email, så tager vi den derfra.

    Comment by Pollux | July 14, 2011 | Reply

    • Mail sendt!

      Comment by US | July 15, 2011 | Reply

  6. Tjek. Lad os drikke en æblemost ved kanalen eller et eller andet i august. Send mig en sms, når tiden nærmer sig, så finder vi ud af noget. Har du stadig mit nummer (jeg kan ikke finde ud af, hvor jeg gemte dit – hvis jeg gemte det)? Ved du hvad, jeg sender dig lige mit nummer igen på twitter, så ved jeg du har det.

    Comment by info | July 14, 2011 | Reply

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