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Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications | [The Great Courses]

Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications

We use DNA routinely - to cure diseases, solve crimes, and reunite families. Yet we've known about it for only 60 years. And what we're continuing to learn about it every day has the potential to transform our health, our nutrition, our society, and our future. But what, exactly is DNA, the self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms?
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Publisher's Summary

We use DNA routinely - to cure diseases, solve crimes, and reunite families. Yet we've known about it for only 60 years. And what we're continuing to learn about it every day has the potential to transform our health, our nutrition, our society, and our future.

But what, exactly, is DNA, the self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms? You'll learn the answer - and much more - in this briskly paced series of 24 easily understood lectures from an award-winning teacher, author, and scientist. Professor Sadava unlocks DNA's mysteries as he explains what the science of genetics is and guides you through decades of cutting-edge research, scientific discovery, and genetics' weighty implications for us as individuals and as a society. Professor Sadava draws on examples from his own research to show how understanding genetics allows us to improve medical treatment and nutrition, vastly improving our health and quality of life.

You'll also learn how understanding genetics is a critical step toward understanding human identity, itself. For examining our DNA - how it works and what happens when something goes wrong - enables us to see the roots of how our bodies work, why we get sick, and how traits are passed through families.

Enjoy this rare opportunity to peer over the shoulder of a working scientist, learning how he puzzles through the problems of genetics to find meaningful, real-world solutions that can not only save an individual life but also enhance the quality of life for everyone.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2008 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2008 The Great Courses

What Members Say

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  •  
    Chris Albuquerque, NM, United States 12-15-13
    Chris Albuquerque, NM, United States 12-15-13

    cleith

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    "Very good book on genetics"

    I thought that this was a very good book on genetics and how this field of science is being applied in the real world. The material is presented in a way that the average listener can understand and grasp. The delivery of the lectures are very well done. You will learn the basics about genetics and develop a working vocabulary. The author and in this case the professor / narrator starts each lecture with a very interesting story that sets the stage for the content of the lecture. If you have any interest in learning the basics about genetics, then I highly recommend this audio book. The Great Courses usually do a great job at providing content. This is a good book for high school students or above. It is a very interesting and enjoyable course.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Meryl Sydney, Australia 05-17-14
    Meryl Sydney, Australia 05-17-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Great introduction to genetics"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, I would recommend this to anybody who is curious about genetics. This is a great introduction to the short history and slightly technical side of genetics in layman's terms. David Sadava keeps the course engaging with a memorable story at the start of each lecture and briefly tells the story of all the important contributors (Mendel, Darwin, the guys who first thought of the double helix etc.). He explains the significance and relevance of each topic to today's society (forensics, agriculture, ethics, disease & medicine). This course has made me realise the vast practical applications of genetics. Being from a science background but never having gotten around to studying biology, the knowledge I've taken from this course will be invaluable. I can now read otherwise intimidating texts on the subject now that I am familiar with the basic terms and concepts.


    What other book might you compare Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications to and why?

    I think if you are serious about understanding the material, the DVD version, having diagrams, would make things much easier (although it is significantly pricier). As with all sciences some concepts cannot be explained easily without a diagram. I would recommend taking notes throughout the course and looking up key concepts online for relevant graphs (e.g. punnet squares), diagrams and illustrations (DNA double helix, molecular structures, cell diagrams etc.).


    Which character – as performed by Professor David Sadava – was your favorite?

    Mendel - the father of modern genetics. Another great contributor who wasn't appreciated during his lifetime!


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Silly question.


    Any additional comments?

    Sadava is a good lecturer. He is very listenable and has friendly tone reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld at times.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A CLARKSVILLE, TN, United States 08-21-13
    A CLARKSVILLE, TN, United States 08-21-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Interesting lectures on biotechnology"
    Where does Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is probably my favorite non-fiction audiobook so far.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The content is very relevant to our lives and is pretty up to date on modern biotechnology. The beginning had a great review of genetics before jumping into the biotechnology lectures.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doug D. Eigsti Colorado Springs, Colorado United States 12-01-14
    Doug D. Eigsti Colorado Springs, Colorado United States 12-01-14 Member Since 2011

    Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).

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    "…..Disruptive Genetic Technology....."

    This Great Courses presentation is very well done. Professor David Sadava knows his material inside and out. It is a joy to hear him deliver the complicated concepts that are necessary to understand even the most rudimentary ideas that relate to genetics. The very technical information in his lectures flows off his lips as easy as a Trekker would explain the reasons for his preference of Picard over Kirk. Prof. Sadava is really good at pointing out the recent discoveries in the field of DNA research that are revolutionizing our understanding of the way the human body works. Whether you are a Darwinist or a Creationist you will marvel at the incredible complexity of life that is now being revealed by modern advances in research. It is amazing what can be done with the building blocks of DNA once its structure and chemical make-up is known. We now have a herd of just eighteen cows excreting the entire world demand for Human Growth hormone in their milk. Sheep now make insulin in the protein of their milk. We now have bacteria that eat oil spills; others glow in the dark in the presence of land mines with TNT. In this course you will learn the way vaccines work—by prompting the body’s existing immune system to produce antibodies. The varied applications of genetic research is a tribute to the ingenuity of modern man.

    David Sadava is a materialistic scientist, and therefore his sense of right and wrong takes on a very pragmatic nature. Moral issues are not deeply considered. He recounts dispassionately the decisions of people acting of information garnered through genetic testing with no regard to the morality of those decisions. Couples desiring healthy babies are using the information made available to us through genetic research to select for a superior human babies. Who doesn't want healthy babies? The unspoken down-side, recounted in Lecture 18, is that genetic screening leads to Jewish babies being aborted after they are discovered to be afflicted with Tay Sachs disease, or multiple embryos dying in the test-tube when their healthy sibling is inserted into the mother’s uterus. This criticism of the morality of this course does not detract from the ability of Professor Sadava to provoke one’s thoughts. On the contrary, people with deeply held moral convictions need to keep informed on the advances of genetic science. This is a stimulating and educational set of lectures that I recommend to anyone with an interest in how things work. Moralists and theologians need to listen to this course to keep abreast of the social change that is being conducted in the absence of their guidance.

    The Professor ends the series with the sentence, “The genetic genie is out of the bottle.” Apparently even those closest to the scientific discipline of Genetic research realize that we have move very far very fast—so fast that the long-term consequences cannot be predicted with surety. Obviously Sadava is of the belief that the problems we may have already caused can be fixed by future scientists. I think he places too much trust in the men in The Men in the White Lab Coats. By cutting and splicing genes we are not merely dabbling with a harmless genie that has the potential to cure mankind’s problems with disease and hunger. We are like children playing in God’s toy box; breaking apart what to us looks to be just a bunch of Lego parts that can be reassembled in the way that seems right to us; when in reality we have no idea of the complex interactions we are causing to the environment and to our own bodies. We have not released a benevolent genie. We have opened Pandora’s Box.

    …..Other books useful for aspiring geneticists and ethicists:

    INHERITANCE by Sharon Moalem

    THE SPORTS GENE by David Epstein

    THE VIRAL STORM by Nathan Wolfe

    THE EDGE OF EVOLUTION by Michael Behe

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert 08-16-14
    Robert 08-16-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Genetics course is quite good"
    Would you listen to Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications again? Why?

    I listen to it over and over because each time through I seem to get something new and interesting..


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications?

    I enjoyed the lecture about genetics and agriculture...it was interesting both from a scientific point of view and a social and historical perspective.


    Which character – as performed by Professor David Sadava – was your favorite?

    I enjoyed his story about the scientist who genetically engineered crops to triple their yield creating food for billions of people.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    Worth reading or listening too, valuable education in genetics for anyone and everyone.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Dollens San Jose CA 12-20-14
    S. Dollens San Jose CA 12-20-14 Member Since 2012

    thedollens

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    "Great handling of a confusing topic"
    Would you listen to Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications again? Why?

    I am listening the second time currently. The first time thru I learned what I did not know. Now I will listen carefully on those critical areas.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The way key points of genetics and biology were connected to real-life realities.The whole story was very well transitioned from topic-to-topic.


    Have you listened to any of Professor David Sadava’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    First time to hear David Sadava, but I will find more of his performances. He has a great sense of self-deprecating humor. It livened things up nicely.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I laughed a lot. Scratched my head a lot on the science, and learned a lot.


    Any additional comments?

    Nice job. Mission accomplished.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    gerry milton, ON, Canada 11-10-14
    gerry milton, ON, Canada 11-10-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Fascinating Subject - Prof Could be Better"

    I read many science books but somehow missed the field of genetics. This book definitely filled that desire to learn the basics of the subject, although visual aids would have helped me understand it faster. I also found that I repeated certain chapters to ensure I understood the concept better. The Prof was engaging and enthusiastic, but he had a tendency to repeat useless info while not explaining some basic science concepts thoroughly enough. I tended to lose focus due to his repetitive obsession to give an acronym and then have to explain what it means while saying he won't do it again - but then does. Despite that, he presented a broad base and logical development to the subject by explaining the history of genetic discoveries and then biotechnology applications in cancer and agriculture. Overall, the subject was so fascinating that I must admit that I enjoyed it, but the Prof lost me many times. This may be my ignorance of the subject, but if I am evaluating the experience I have to give it an average rating -since the subject is the subject. I have listened to 4 or 5 Great Courses and this Prof was the most difficult to follow.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    George M. Tulloch Seattle, WA 08-10-13
    George M. Tulloch Seattle, WA 08-10-13

    Rudra68

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    "Informative and Entertaining"
    What made the experience of listening to Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications the most enjoyable?

    Helped me understand the topic.


    What other book might you compare Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications to and why?

    I don't know


    What about Professor David Sadava’s performance did you like?

    I like how he provided information with historical anecdotes and analogies.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    yes


    Any additional comments?

    no

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-8 of 8 results
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  • jcw
    7/13/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A bit basic"
    Any additional comments?

    I've learned a lot from other Great Courses lectures so I was looking forward to this one. However, although the topics were well-structured and the concepts were well-explained, it was a bit basic. For example, epigenetics didn't even get a mention. Also, although the lecturer clearly knew his stuff, he was a bit pollyannaish about genetic technology. Overall, if you want a sound introduction with lots of real-world examples, these lectures will probably fit the bill. However, if you want something aimed at an intermediate level and with a bit of nuance, they probably aren't for you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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