Thursday, November 18, 2010

And the beauty of inner space…

…visualized in a way that was science-fiction fantasy thirty years back.

Where Cinema and Biology Meet | The New York Times

Each cell is its own solar system, filled not only with the planetary bodies of the organelles chained in their proximal relations to the nucleus, but with a myriad of cometary and asteroid-like proteins that are the widgets and self-driven molecular tools of life.

And maybe that is what makes life such an endemic part of the universe. The realities of physics and the varigies of chemistry have conspired to litter our realm of existence with trillions upon trillions of reactive, self-assembling tools. From the level of molecules up to the scale of cells, our environment is awash in organic devices and a myriad of self-folding, self-kinking structures just waiting for the correct catalysts. Well that and a relatively hospitable environment that will not blow apart newly assembled composite structures with thermal extremes or the sheering force of radiation.

After all, life is not just about reproducing, but maintaining the thermal and chemical equilibrium that makes copying oneself possible.

A similar dance of self-assembly happened even before the existence of life. Just as this vast array of molecular tools readily combines into far more bizarre and elaborate configurations, so did unthinkable numbers of quarks and particles of force bond to assemble the trillions of trillions of tons of atoms that make up baryonic matter in our universe. And this in turn was forged by heat and gravity in the furnace of stars into more bizarre and reactive forms like carbon.

A nifty vid focusing on the internal structure of a white blood cell as it “walks” along the lining of a blood vessel on its way to ingratiate itself into inflamed tissue and fight an infection.

A narration of the same video

Videos like these are fantastic tools for explaining complex systems that are difficult for much of the population to visualize. Properly narrated, these will go a long way in making the microscopic world accessible to the average Joe on the street as well as his kids in school. This will be increasingly important as our economy is becomes more-and-more driven by the manipulation of organic and inorganic matter on the scale of molecules.

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