Compare Lego version of mitosis, linked below, to this movie of a live cell dividing by mitosis. While this video is roughly the same length as the Lego version, the process actually takes around an hour -- this video is a time lapse. The dark-colored bodies are the chromosomes (note: the word "chromosome" literally means "dark bodies"). The spindle fibers depicted by the green strings in the Lego video can't be seen in this version due to the microscope lighting arrangement that was used.
How long does it take to create an animation?
To shoot a hundred or so pictures usually takes an hour or two. Setting up the lighting can takes time, as Lego bricks can be difficult to shoot well with their highly reflective surfaces. The real work comes after that, adding music and editing. I realize that Amanda Finkelburg gave some of the animations she created a kind of 1970s look and I don't know how long it took for her to create these finishing touches.
How are the animations recorded -- what is the technical process behind them?
Basically you take a lot of photos! We purchased a program for the Mac, which was inexpensive and yet quite adequate.
What are some of the settings where these are shown?
As mentioned earlier, these animations are used at MIT in various school outreach programs, for example with middle school students on fieldtrips to the MIT Edgerton Center. I also use these animations regularly when teaching adults. As Director of the Outreach program for the Center for Environmental Health Sciences, I roll these the animations in teacher professional development workshops and also in nurse continuing education programs, which are focused on cell biology. Biology is a field that is rapidly changing, and many adults thrive on hands-on learning and good visualization techniques too, in order to pick up the concepts fast and be able to recall them easily.
Which animation is your personal favorite? Why?
The first version of the Lego animation of "translation" is my personal favorite. I set up on a tripod and shot 150 photos on my Nikon CoolPix Camera in my dining room. Translation is that process that takes place on a ribosome, a small speck inside a cell. Imagine the ribosome as a workbench, which pops together the subunits of proteins to create in a long continuous chain. That chain folds up to become a useful protein. The reason why I am so fond of this animation is it captures a couple of surprising steps and then makes them become completely logical to the viewer. For instance in one of the steps, the elongating protein chain is added onto the free end of the incoming protein subunit. (Most people think this happens the other way around!) I guess like this animation because the photo quality was pretty good, it was fun to produce on my own, and I knew I had a good story to tell with all of Lego molecules (mRNA, and tRNA and the amino acids) in the picture.
What animations projects are you working on now?
The animation project we are working now will utilize a new version of Lego DNA without magnets. We are creating an additional set of transcription and translation animations, the processes by which proteins are produced from DNA instructions. Magnets were originally used mimic the hydrogen bonds between the sides of the DNA ladder. (Hydrogen bonds are easily broken and reform -- thus the magnets were appropriate.) However, the new Lego DNA has some great additional visual features, which emphasize molecular shape. The shapes fit like puzzle pieces when the two sides of the DNA ladder meet in the middle. So we are reshooting the animations and we are also thinking of ways to add some narration. I think this could work well, particularly if the sound tracks are selectable, allowing the viewer to control the amount of didactic information in the experience.
Translation: This is an updated version of the translation video, including catchy music. Former MIT student Amanda Finkelberg used a special degradation process to give the film an old-timey look.
Transcription: This video shows genetic transcription, which is how RNA is synthesized from DNA.
Note: neither of the DNA Lego sets (translation and transcription) are currently available for purchase because they are undergoing a redesign, so disregard the sales information in the videos.
Cell Division: Mitosis: In this type of cell division, a mother cell splits into two daughter cells, each with an identical set of chromosomes. This movie was made in QuickTime Pro from 108 shots from a Nikon D100 digital SLR with a 40mm lens.
Cell Division: Meiosis: In meiosis, the point is to mix things up, creating two completely new cells and is a key part of sexual reproduction. This video was created in QuickTime Pro using 116 shots from a Nikon D100 DSLR.single page
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