These Awesomely Weird Students Prove Science Doesn’t Bore People. Boring People Bore People.

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Sure, there are other ways of achieving scientific literacy about the building blocks of life. You could read a textbook, you could decipher some complex diagrams, OR you could watch this video (which I saw for the first time in high school biology class and promptly remembered forever). It features some killer flute solos, the perfect amount of cowbell, a Nobel Prize-winning narrator, and shirtless hippies doing somersaults. (?!) And that’s only the beginning.

The good stuff (aka the hippies) starts around 3:12. Revel in their chillness, their enthusiasm, and the balloons tied to their heads. Skip ahead to 5:05-5:33 to meet the jazz dancers dressed kind of like birds, and don’t miss 9:14, featuring the student who will heretofore be known as The Somersault Guy. Be prepared to be humming “tRNA!” to yourself all day.

Transcript:
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Narrator: Only rarely is there an opportunity to participate in a molecular happening. You're going to have that opportunity, for this film attempts to portray symbolically yet in a dynamic and joyful way one of nature's fundamental processes, the linking together of amino acids to form a protein.

We know now that the three dimensional structure and the function of a protein is determined by the order of amino acids along the backbone of the molecule. So, protein synthesis involves programing and assembly. In this film, with people portraying molecules, using the dance idiom tries to animate these two processes, the programming and the assembly of a protein.

Our genes carry the instructions for ordering the amino acids of each protein. Those instructions are encoded in a messenger molecule mRNA, depicted in this film as a long snaking chain. Each of the massage units is played by three adjacent people in the chain. Colored head balloons indicate the bases, green is for valine, blue for uracil, yellow for alanine. If there is a message there must be a way to translate that message and that's the job of the ribosomes and of the transfer RNAs.

The ribosomes is is composed of a large and of a small sub-unit and these are depicted in the film as tumbling rolling clusters of body, amorphous by themselves but organized and structured when in the act of translating the message. First, the small sub-unit with the aid of an initiation factor captures the message, then, the first transfer RNA carrying its cognate amino acid is bought to the ribosome message complex by a second dancing initiation factor. This requires energy and that's represented by a puff of smoke.

Next, the large ribosomal sub-unit tumbles into place and then the process of bringing each amino acid through the ribosome message complex is accomplished by the T factor and its GTP cohort, and so, in the order prescribed by the balloon colors in the message chain each amino acid is bought to the assembly site to be added to the growing chain by the peptomial synthesis.

Next, in an energy requiring step the message RNA, tRNA complex is shifted, so as to bring the next message unit into the ribosome to allow the process to repeat itself. At the end, the terminator factor seeing the termination signal cleaves the completed protein from the last tRNA, releasing it from the ribosome. So, that the ribosomes can do its job again, the two sub units are split apart and separated from the messenger by the ribosome releasing factor.

My diagram is of necessity static but protein synthesis is a dynamic process. This movie tries to bring those dynamic interactions to life.

[Music]

Female: All mimsy was mRNA, that colored message unit array.

[Music]

Female: MRNA...
[Music] [Dance]

Female: Bound they were in the glorious sun by Initiator Factor one.

Male: Initiator Factor Two.

Female: Initiator Factor two went searching for tRNA who bore the flaccid amino acids.
Male: Ooh wow! [Music][Dance]

Male: TRNA! [Music] [Dance]

Male: Ooh, ooh, ooh. [Music][nance]

Male: GTP! Whoo! [Music][Dance]

Female: Then as the eff-ish bonds were formed, the 50s ribosome untamed came whiffling through the tall grass and verbal as it gave...

[Music][Dance]

Male: 50s Ribosome, 50s Ribosome... [Music][Dance][Singing]

Male: [Music] 50s, hey, hey, hey, 50s ribosome, 50s... [screaming, hooting, howling]

[Music]

Male: [Music] T Factor plus GTP...

Male: T Factor...

Female: T Factor plus GTP gathered in tRNA...

Male: [Music] tRNA...

Female: [Music] Gathered in tRNA and came glumping back.

[screaming, hooting, howling]

Male: [Music] Ooh, ooh, hydrogen bond...

Female: [Music] Amino acid both inside, alas the peptide bond was formed...

Male: Peptide bonds...

Female: And as the index step took place, the message units shift a space...

Male: TRNA... [Music] [Screaming, hooting, howling]

Male: [Music] TRNA...

Male: [Music] Each tRNA approached the site, bearing it's Amino Acid load whose sequence was determined by the mRNA message unit Magic Code.

Male: [ Music] Wow, wow, wow, wow...

Male: Peptide bond...

Male: [Music] Ooh, oh, oh, oh...

Male: [Music] Index, index...

Male: [Music] Clipping inside...

Male: [Music] Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh...

Male: [Music] Peptomial synthesis...

Male: [Music] Peptide bonds...

Female: Long time did biocomplex churn, the Protein grew by tips and tomes. Amino acids linked in turn by the catalytic ribosomes...

Male: Oh... [Music] [singing]

Male: [Singing] Protein releasing factor, protein releasing factor...

Female: Protein releasing factor sense the end her vocal arms went snicker snout, "Oh, fragious day, calout, calaid the protein chain came streaking out...

[Music]

Male: Ribosomes releasing factor...

Female: Then ribosomes releasing factor with jaws that bite and claws that free released the synthesizing complex and chortled in his glee.

[Music]

Male: Twas bryllyg and the sliddy ribosomee did gyre and gimbal in the wave.

[Music]

Female: All mimsy was mRNA and protein chain out grabe...

[Music]

[Screaming, singing]

[Music]

[Screaming, singing]

[Music] [dancing]

There may be small errors in this transcript.
About:

This wackadoo science video/dance, aka "Protein Primer: An Epic on a Cellular Level” (my favorite title), was made in 1971 by some Stanford University and University of California San Diego students along with narrator and Nobel Prize-winner Paul Berg.

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