IITx diaries. Episode-1

smoochHe and she were sitting adjacent, actually more proximate, well frankly smothered into the other, on the rear-most step of the Open air theatre in-campus late at night. Let’s step back a moment. Well we do literally need to so as to give them some privacy. Now literal-qualms aside, metaphorically taking a step back to ponder a deep philosophical injunction, why need it be a he and a she?

No, now don’t get all creative and start imagining plural forms of either or both pronoun. Did you know mélange a trios used to be an accepted, or rather still is, a form of social co-habitation in Europe? I want to go Europe. To see the Eiffel tower ofcourse! What were you thinking? Back to business with the he and the she, why need there be this gender duality in a relationship-duo. Given we are liberals in the 21st century, we take no issue if it were a he and a he, smooching the life out of the other! Did that scene where the Dementor sucks the life out of Harry’s luscious lips flash in your head? Did I spoil Harry Potter for you forever? Let’s hope not. Or it could as well be a she and a she (giggles!). What? I am no intolerant bigot! Isn’t humor an inexplicable thing? People find humor in death. Well, some do. Crimes-against-humanity did not sell-out for no reason. A she with a she can’t be more ominous than mortis can it?

2000px-sexual_orientation_-_4_symbols-svgNow having established it could just as well have been a he with a he, or a she with a she, let’s just contend with the fact that on that particular fateful night, fateful as because we voyeurs trained our telescopes upon them, the them, or grammatically speaking, they, chanced to be a he and a she. And we shall not judge them for sticking, quite cloyingly, to conventional gender duality of the most populous binary relationship-type in society. So what where they doing? They were smooching (giggles!).

They were at it, for quite a while now, and one could almost see that despite the flushed face and bated breath, their lips pressed against were drained of blood and deathly pale. The guy actually wanted to just hold hands and peer into her eyes, the gateway to her soul (sigh, clichéd, I know!), but the girl wouldn’t hear of it. She was a progressive she said, whatever it meant, and she wanted this thing, which for reasons of propriety and censorship shall not be juicily detailed. But it suffices to say that it involved lips, tongue, and human saliva- a slightly alkaline fluid of pH-7.4, that aids in deglutition (fancy term for swallowing) and got amylase (an enzyme aka biocatalyst) that initiates digestion of starch. But she wanted it, she was bossy and a feminist, both traits totally unrelated, and he being a gentleman listened and complied with shocking readiness.

The pale lips in due course got numb, not unsurprisingly as anyone with experience would know (do I smell pride? Envy? Disgust? hey, its fiction remember). And with numbness comes an irking lack of satisfaction and that concomitant veil of boredom. The guy wants to go back to his room now. He got to study electron wave function for the quantum electrodynamics test the next day. But he can’t tell her that. She was too cool, and above all, was a girl. He knew given his brilliant track-record with people who carried two X chromosomes, the probability of he getting within two feet of another women in his lifetime was slim at best, and non-existent on a more conservative estimate. Does this make him desperate? Aren’t we all desperate for love (emphatic pause for effect!)?

wave-equation(After an unnecessary split of paragraph to exacerbate the pause!) He wondered what if she was the one, that it was meant to be. Just then the girl does something unexpected. Why, because the narrative required something dramatic to happen. It had gotten into a slog for a while now. The dramatic thing, yes, the girl does it. She picks up her phone, takes a pic, and sends him a copy. She doesn’t upload it with a string of cheesy cheery charming smiley’s on the social media, which is enormously unexpected and a tad dramatic. Less significantly, she says, remember me, and she disappears in a blink.

Too dramatic? Well, who’s to say. What, you? Give it a break. What happened of creative freedom, free speech, tolerance at least? Let’s stick with the fact. And the fact was, as we now shall believe, she disappears. Poof! And the guy blinks. Well, the girl disappears in a blink too. Whether she blinked at that precise moment she disappeared stands to reason. Given it isn’t of any importance, her blink, as much as the guy’s blink, let’s let it slide. (Disclaimer- No, we are not giving any less importance to the girl’s blink because she is a woman. She just was so super-awesome-adroit-quick-skilled in blinking that we couldn’t record if she blinked.)

Guy blinks, girl disappears. Let’s replay, the guy blinks, he notices a stern rap on his shoulder. No, it’s not parallel universes. We abhor the multiverse hypothesis. The two needn’t necessarily be mutually-exclusive in the same universe (pardon the double negative, I know it’s a crime. I should be hanged! maybe after am dead)- he blinks, she disappears, and he notices a stern rap on his shoulder. The next moment, he’s up, wiping the copious drool from the corner of his mouth, the left cheek, in fact his entire face, and from the notebook with the half-scribbled quantum wave equation, staring back at him in dreadful disarray.

No, he wasn’t dreaming. We shall not have an anticlimactic clichéd end. It wasn’t a dream. She was real, she disappeared, and as he blinked, he was teleported through time-and-space into the quantum electrodynamics exam next day. You doubt it? Think it’s too convenient? Consider this. For the sake of sanity, he checks his phone and there she is, with him beside, in the pic she had shared. Convinced? At least he was, and a foolish smug smile lights up on his face. He looks at the test paper again. Matter is a particle and a wave. The pitiful Schrodinger’s cat is dead, and is alive. The probability distribution for an electron at all points outside nucleus is non-zero, even for large distances, though howsoever infinitesimally small the probability gets. Disappearing, poof, in a blink, while unheard-of, could be extant. As could teleportation, with no device or wand or Dumbledore’s watch. Beyond all, there is a non-zero probability, howsoever close to zero on the numberline, of him having a girl who would walk along by his side, be-it-may by chance, for at least the measure of a good long 2 feet. Having said that, he could totally nail the smooch. The pic proves that he did.  The bell rings. Exams over. The probability of him flunking the test is 1 (definitive!). He strides to the door, gets out the hall, and blinks at the bright sunlight, just as a hand appears, linking its fingers with his, and the body attached to that hand is the girl in the pic. Sure thing, quantum doesn’t make sense. And here is why, it needn’t!

di48kaqbt

That stupid toad!

choas.jpg‘A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets’ said the old feisty Rose in Titanic, as did a girl in my class at high school when I asked her intentions behind putting a toad in my lunch when not more than a week before she had confessed her love to me. Now the quote felt apropos to the moment and I blinked in appreciation which would have lasted for a while longer had the toad not croaked. It was a disgusting little thing, looking all clueless and to be frank, a little frightened. Being an environmentalist myself, I promptly had the toad transported to the biology lab and gave it up for the dissection that was due next week. I did hate to let precious resources go waste.

While this incident sure sounded as a nail stuck into the coffin of our little puppy love, it sure stood out 8 years later when I found self in the same city as this girl from high school. She still owed me an explanation. Not that it would change anything, but mysteries have a characteristic itch about them that compel us feeble folks to have them resolved.

I made sure to get to the café late by half an hour in hope of making a grand entry on the awaiting lady; though my little scheme was squashed by the girl who was a good wholesome hour late. Now I readily forgave her because she had long legs. Everyone has their own set of idiosyncrasies. Call me shallow, but I have a thing for long legs. As a matter of fact, I find girls who think hunky, muscular guys are hot and attractive as incredibly shallow and contemptible. It is just so juvenile and out-dated. It was the alpha males of the Neanderthals. In the today, the alpha males are those with enough wits to sift through the massive amounts of data available and make consequential choices. Rowing back on course from this little but important digression, a pair of long legs brought her to the café and she sat across, crossing them.

With great effort I unhinged my glance from this subconscious fixation on those pair of long, shapely, life-affirming lower limbs, and looked up to meet her gaze. She apparently wasn’t very pleased with the way I had turned out. My nails were dirty, my hair unkempt and longer than appropriate, not to miss the long meandering crease on my shirt that would have made a juicy data-point for any decent computing machine to churn an equation to explain its branching morphology. But I had an arresting smile, killer dimples, and a twinkle in my eyes, as my mother used to say, and didn’t feel too ruffled by her critical censure.

She said she was engaged to Jenny. Yes, it is a girl’s name. I did a quick re-take on the manliness of my killer-dimples from high school! But enough conceit already. I said I was happy for her. While totally a lie, not that I had anything remotely romantic toward this toad-toting long-legged critical feminine fellow Homo sapien,  I just didn’t have it in me to ever be happy for else. Unless that folk was a blood-relative, it evolutionarily didn’t hold water. Though I wasn’t unhappy for her; so all is well I hope. After some small talk on Syrian war, Canadian politics, and quantum entanglement, I asked her about the toad in my Tiffin.

Instead of a straight answer, she asked in return, ‘Was it predictable- that event of me putting that thing beside your sandwiches?’ ‘Hell no!’, said I. Then it was a-causal as far as your reality is concerned, she quipped and smiled. I was well aware of James Gleick’s line from the book Chaos that an inherently unpredictable event need be a-causal. The idea being, had there been a cause to which this event had been an effect, then the occurrence of the cause would have made the event predictable. Well again, another apropos use of someone else’s thesis, remember the Rose’s dialogue, yet, I had misgivings on the ‘inherent’ qualifier to the ‘unpredictability’.

In retrospect, I think that smile she beamed was a wicked one. It feels so not nice to feel out-witted. I promised her to iron my shirt and maybe clean half my nails, which I suppose appealed to what little good there was hidden, deep, in some dark recess within her, and she relented. She said, the toad was her pet, and she wanted to surprise me, while I mercilessly had it given up for dissection. (As against what I had thought, the toad had been dissected the same day, not a week later. They had needed it to demonstrate the electrical nature of sciatic nerve stimulation to cause contraction of the calf).

After a sheepish smile, we paid the bill the Dutch way and left. Though unbeknown to us, one of the students who had observed the nerve stimulation experiment that day had become so fascinated with the whole thing that he now is a neurosurgeon doing well curing folks of epilepsy. Who knew the stupid frog and my generous act would consequent the society such good!

toad happy.jpg

The unnatural nature of science

Professor Lewis Wolpert at home North London. February 2011.I recently read this book by the developmental biologist, Lewis Wolpert. It was originally published in 1992. At its core, the intent of the book was to explain why common people, the public, don’t ‘get’ science.

This is no review of the book. I only intend to bring to fore the ‘unnaturalness’ of the nature of science, as Wolpert put it. Consider a ball rolling down an incline onto a flat plane. It will roll a distance and stop. If the plane was absolutely smooth, with there being no friction, the ball would keep rolling for ever. But note that we haven’t had the opportunity to experience such frictionless surfaces in our day to day life. Thus our common sense, the set of thumb rules we have acquired quite unbeknown to self based on repeated experience with the reality known to us, finds it counterintuitive what Galileo put forth, and later Newton captured in his First law of motion, that uniform motion is the natural state of objects, aka, that ball would keep rolling.

This is the crux of the argument. Scientific explanations are essentially bound to invoke concepts from outside our daily dealings, and thus are fated to be counterintuitive, even absurd. This underlies the reluctance of the general populace to accept science. Stretching this to its logical extreme, Wolpert even argues that if something is explainable with commonsensical notions, then such explanations are not scientific; it’s not science. But to appreciate this, one would need to get into what he means by ‘science’, and, for that he has written that book. Hasn’t he!

Life, afar

blog 1

The double helical coil of life

DNA, encrypted

Simmers

the commensurable,

yet impenetrable essence

the Gestalt of all that’s live.

The maze in the brain

Neural networks, encoded

Taunts

the imposing façade of

irreducible complexity,

near chaotic, alive, conscious.

Though, it is

that iridescent black pebble

smooth, oblong

on the river bank

that fills me with a  longing

for a life, experienced, not observed.

Fever-pitching!

fever 2One fine day, the mistress of evolution sat seaming in her courtyard. In her tinker-some best, she wondered what today. A fragrant breeze, the rustle of leaves, and that congenial stroke of inspiration, she conceived fever! With a grand flourish of her wand she had the next living moving thing to spike a modest rise in temperature as when any infection took seat. Little did she know then that that little whim would be such a hit in the ages to come. 600 million years have passed since, and the fashion is still in vogue. Come any infection, be it human, animal or plant, the organism spikes fever!

It was in 1st century AD that Celsus, a Roman scholar, despite being surrounded by Roman soldiers who wore sexy skirts and ambled around distracting gentle folks with that display of rippled manly thighs, had the focus of mind to notice beyond and club fever with three other signs, local redness, swelling and pain. These are the four cardinal signs of inflammation, the body’s response to any infection or trauma. With an addition of loss of function as the fifth sign, and the unfortunate restriction of man-skirts to Scotland, the firm association between fever and infection still holds today.

Evolution while a tinkerer, hates to hoard. Each organism is an essential minima. It doesn’t carry as baggage attributes that don’t benefit it in this struggle for existence. Anatomical features, physiological aspects, psychological quirks, all have a meaningful purpose in enabling the organism and the species to reproduce and survive. Enter man and he wonders, if so, then what good does fever do that evolution did not lose it despite the 600 million years of relationship it has had. Well, could it be that the rise in body temperature on infection helps the organism ward off the infecting agent, kill that irksome interfering microbes, be it bacteria, virus, protozoa or fungus?

fever 3Julius Wagner-Jauregg, other than having the misfortune of having been a life-long friend of Sigmund Freud, and an anti-Semite, the order of misfortunes with-standing, bagged the Nobel for medicine on 10th December, 1927, a decade right after he treated nine patients with neurosyphilis. Now neurosyphilis is a vintage disease, a relic of pre-antibiotic era, wherein tiny wriggly bacteria called Treponema pallidum pitch camp in one’s brain and go hiking; though this little adventure doesn’t bode well to the patient. There was no treatment to cure or stall this malady. Julius thought better and gave them malaria. Yes, you read that right. He infected them with malaria. Lo and behold, of the nine patients in his first trial in 1917, six got better. No kidding!

Julius Wagner was no run-of-the-mill mad scientist who just got lucky. There was a rationale to this radical trial. Malaria causes fever. Many including himself suspected whether this fever, the little whim of our evolutionary seamstress, could have the role in the clearance of infections. And as the story stands today, Shanon S.Evans of Rosewell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo published in Nature Review in July, 2015 that Immune system feels the heat. Fever affects every aspect of the body’s intricate immune defence, and in almost every case, improving its robustness. It’s so useful that lizards, which can’t raise their body temperature (courtesy being cold-blooded), spike it to fever range by behaviourally seeking warm-shelter upon infection. And MJ Kluger found that if you don’t let these lizards do so by artificially restraining them, or giving them aspirin which curiously makes them not seek hot spots (suggesting the mechanism for physiological and behavioural fever induction is the same), the lizards perish to the infection.

Now if that were the case, why on earth do we have paracetamol, aspirin, ibuprofen and the likes prescribed for fever? If fever fights infection, why do we relieve one of fever? Shouldn’t we let it wage on! But before that, what’s fever? Is any rise in body temperature fever, or there’s more to the mix? And how does the body rig up this association between infection and fever?

Before we answer them, it would do well to dwell about my bathroom. It has white pristine tiles, a mirror that reflects my handsome British-ish visage, and a geyser with a thermostat. Akin to the geyser, our body has one thermostat as well. Right inside our brain, close to its centre, in a structure called the hypothalamus. For the nerdy folks, the median pre-optic nucleus of the hypothalamus. And as when the geyser thermostat is dialed to a higher temperature, the coil heats the water within, like-wise when the hypothalamic thermostat is dialed up, we burn calories in our liver, work our muscles to a shiver, shunt bloods from the peripheral more-exposed blood vessels, and the more fortunate ones, cozy into a blanket. The converse, dial it down, we sweat, and lose the blanket.

We humans are made up of lots of stuffs, proteins and things, that work well within a narrow range of temperature, usually 36.5-37.5 degrees on fever 4the Celsius scale. Taking into account the circadian (24 hourly) variation in body temperature, fever is defined as a core body temperature of above 37.2 in AM and 37.7 in PM. It’s akin to say if your body temperature is 37.3 degrees at 8 AM, you got fever, but a similar value at 8 PM is not, by definition fever. Humans! But this range covers 99th centile of the human folks, so it’s there to stay.

On infections, that is to say, you scrape your knee while at play and some bacteria makes abode there, the body’s immune defence will be pulled into action. The task force applied to the policing, the macrophages and neutrophils, release a cascase of chemicals called cytokines. Of these, the one’s carrying the name-tag IL-1, IL-6 and TNFalpha do the hardwork of dialing up the hypothalamic thermostat. The process has a few middle men, one important fellow named PGE2, prostaglandin E2. And once set to higher value, we produce more heat, cut down on heat loss, and rise our core body temperature. In plain simple English, have fever.

So fever is a bodily response to inflammation, of which infection is a prime cause. And as it happens, fever boosts immune defence. And a more robust immune defence defeats the invader, that being the infecting organism. But why then do we treat fever? That’s because there is a little grey here. Biology is an involved science. There are lots of if’s and but’s. The more robust immune response is, more the bitter blood bath against the bacteria, and thus more the collateral damage to the normal human cells in and around. Now this might not be entirely good to the welfare of the organism. And I assure this, this collateral damage is by no means ‘little’.

fever 5Now this might be a good spot to pitch forth the huge breach that lies between basic research and clinical research. We can launch rockets and bring them back. We can smash sub-atomic particles at velocities that make light photons wary of their speed. We can label neurons that encode a particular memory. More so, we can post selfies on facebook, open fake accounts, and write cheesy comments upon. But we still don’t know if to treat fever or not! Seriously.

The current undertone in the medical community is to treat fever. Its hewn firm as a dogma. And quite justifiably so. The purpose as proposed is to cause symptomatic relief and lower the metabolic burden on the already sick individual. It’s of note that a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature requires the organism to raise its metabolic rate by 10-12.5%. That’s a considerable burden. Also evidence from a significant number of human trials has nothing to suggest that treating fever is of detriment to the host. True that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But absence of evidence sure is evidence of absent evidence! And medicine being a science needs evidence to inform its guidelines.

But since recent, there is mounting evidence to the otherwise. One study found that symptomatic relief in the infected increases the transmission rates in the population, for the sick person feels better and moves-and-mingles around despite harboring active infection. And there is also robust data from basic research on how fever enhances immune attack on the intruder. In the viewpoint Fever and sickness behavior: Friend or foe? published in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity on July 2015, the Baby Expressionsauthors did an analysis of nearly all published literature on how treating fever in an organism harboring infection affects its clinical outcome as against in one where you let fever be. Their conclusion was though quite dismal. The common lament from the meta-analysis carried to answer the friend or foe conundrum was ‘the final result was equivocal: it could not be determined whether fever control is harmful or beneficial’.

It’s not a laughing matter. One needs to realize that to formulate guideline along the lines of ‘one should not treat fever in patients infected with…’ there has to be a research that concludes that ‘not treating fever in patients suffering from this particular infection improves the clinical outcome as when compared with the treated cohort’. This is clinical research. An evidence along the lines of ‘fever improves immune defence and host clearance of this particular microbe’ is basic research, and while a pre-sentiment to the former conclusion, is not the same. Not by a long shot. And as till that is to occur, heed your doctor and take your anti-fever meds. (Note that host clearance of microbes is a different end point from clinical outcome of illness. The patient could have a scarred lung as because of the immune damage though with complete bacterial clearance on treatment with fever for a particular microbe.)

fever 8As an after-note, the framework of medicine is rooted in biology and subject to continuous scrutiny and informed revisions. The science of it makes sense. And near-every aspect of it is backed by randomized controlled trials. This move towards Evidence-based medicine (EBM) is wrought large in the heart of medical science, and is what makes it credible. It does well to trust such a system and adhere with compliance to what the doc says. And hope all’s well with good health, hale and happy, on the good planet of ours.

P.S.- If you are wondering about Julius and his Nobel, he proved fever could cure (one particular infection). He didn’t prove controlling fever would cause detriment. That’s the charm in biology. Every subtle nuance makes it a different case!

Thinking into the talk!

21454525-think-and-speech-bubbles-the-dude-x-2-communicating-think-and-speech-bubbles (2)‘Oh pretty woman! The sparkle in your eyes is like the twinkle of stars in the night sky’, serenaded Pritish to Priya in his jubilant baritone. While, ‘The structure of an atom is like a miniature solar system with planet-like electrons orbiting the Sun-like nucleus in closed elliptical paths’ proclaimed a gruff gaudy Rutherford. And ‘If you expect the world to be fair with you because you’re fair to them, its like asking a lion not to eat you because you don’t eat lions’ read a random facebook quote. Now what’s the common string in all three?!

No, don’t go into twinkle of star and atoms undergoing nuclear fusion in the starry kiln, and shake off that image of a pretty woman and a lioness walking that graceful gait. The connection is, well bit more literal, actually more of linguistic. All are analogies. The sparkle in eye to the twinkle of star, and the rest two are homework!

Analogies are a logical tool to enhance the literary repertoire as of the scientific ramble. It’s a connection in similarity. We equate some aspect of something to a similar aspect of another thing, to make a point. Yes, the purpose of analogies is to make a point. And that’s as simple as it gets.

Now my worry is, what kind of point is the point that’s made as with analogy. Try this. Once a friend said something mean to another friend of mine. Well lets strip down the façade. The real is, a girl said something mean to her boyfriend, my friend. And she stormed out. A moment later as when it gleamed on her that she was in wrong, she returns to apologize, but my friend in his momental chagrin blurts out, ‘An egg broken, is broken.’

Now he conveyed a point, that once hurt, it can’t be undone, only maybe forgiven or forgotten. And he livened it with a beautiful analogy of a simple scientific fact, actually more of a common knowledge that one cant put the albumin and yolk back into the broken shell and reseal the egg. (The physics is due to entropy and arrow of time and stuffs.) And there is beauty, impact and a clarity in this way of conveying it, with a crisp subtle simple analogy.

And that’s what analogies and meant for. To explain. To bring clarity to the concept. To convey an idea with simplicity. To gleam insight into something.

Now consider this. I once was dragged to a church by a ‘friend’, and someone was preaching on the mike with lots of gesticulation and tonal modulation, walking around, jumping, waving and shouting hallelujah. He made this analogy. I will cut the long repetitive story short. The gist was, ‘the guy went to a furniture store with his wife to buy a cushion for their sofa set. The lady sits on every cushion there, and it takes her two days to make up her mind which one it is’. Then he goes on to say, ‘if u take so long to pick a single cushion, how long will Jesus take to pick the right cushion (life/love/relationship/job/choice) for you’. I guess, his point was, if life is hard, suck it up cos it only means God is trying him as before the gift of a lifetime.

Now the flaw here was, he uses the analogy not to explain, but to substantiate his point. N that’s exactly what an analogy is not for. Because at the very heart, analogy is in essence a logic applied in a different context. The connection being, the similarity of inference that can be drawn. One should note that the inferences in those two disparate contexts per se exist, and are valid. The purpose of analogy being only to present them together so one may understand the logic of the inference in one context as through other. Its not that on the force of some similarity in context, the inference in one is drawn similar to other. N thus why Rutherford went wrong with his planetary model for structure of atom. But there is more to that story than that.

feature-1And thus, like winter gives way to spring, despair will to hope and happiness, well is pleasing pleasant analogy, but its validity, well, its not definite. But then, we want it to be true. Guess, that’s the one small little flaw in analogies. But then, flaws are good sometimes.

Lets finish this with a brilliant one by the Bard, ‘When beggars die there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.’ The point is implicit. And well, sometimes its just well enough to relish a piece of literature than having to dig into its validity and linguistic aptness. Its ok to like, accept and appreciate something at face-value, not always, but some harmless times for sure.

Evolution of Thought

images (8) We are all curious why we are here. Thoughts along this line curiously are sidetracked to the realms of religion, philosophy and metaphysics. And we have such a veritable bedlam of variegated possibilities as answers. What if there was an answer that was testable, rigorous and objective. In a word, which was scientific. Well, we have. And it is surprisingly simple.

The earliest hypothesis to explain our origin, as our purpose and position in this grand scheme was the God hypothesis. It simply stated that we were created by a human God. That He affects the course of our lives by answering prayers or punishing for our fallings. And after when we are done living, decides whether we live in a fabled place of happy ease or hot tortured unease.

It held sway for eons. Partly because it went unchallenged for want of a better answer, and partly because it seemed a very satisfying and heartening an explanation to the ‘existential crisis’ that we pass through. But with Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection, we saw ourselves as never before.

random-thoughtsIt was a dawn of a new era. An era of scientific enquiry, that made us humble amidst every other living and non-living thing in existence. The theory was simple, subtle and infallible. It speaks of how within a population of individuals, some, due to an inherent variability, have traits different from else. Over time, those in possession of traits that left them more adapted to their environment lived, and passed on their legacy, while the unfit, rather more aptly the misfits, perished and were forgotten. Thus, species evolved, diverged, and went on to occupy the different available niches in biosphere.

It’s a theory that is logically consistent. That is, to a rational mind, convincingly true. And beyond that, experimentally it has been proven. The very fact that we have to throw some antibiotics and go search new one’s every couple years is because the pathogen evolved to resist them. Well, if a trait as defining as antibiotic resistance can evolve in such short a span, given four and a half billion years, which I assure you is a really long span of time, the likes of humans can spring forth!

But this is no news. The book On the Origin was published was back in 1859. Then Harold and Haldane gave a theory for abiogenesis, which gave a possible answer to the Origin of life, something that Darwin missed out on. It says how by random combination, simple chemical molecules can form molecules with life-like characters. This was experimentally verified by Harold and Urey in round-bottom flask and with electric spark electrodes. It’s something which as well could happen, but whether it did is yet to be established, for there is another very competing theory, the one of Pangenes, wherein it’s asserted that life came as spores from outer space. Now if it indeed were so, and if these spores came from some planet where life was first to originate, then undoubtedly, the Harold and Haldane theory of abiogenesis must and would explain how life originated there. In this sense, it’s a possible answer.

So as the story stands, from a bunch of simple molecules, over time, primitive forms of life originated. These evolved over time, to form diverse, complex and sophisticated forms of life.

But the good thing about us humans is, in our continuing endeavor to refine our theories and models, Richard Dawkins hit gold with The Selfish Gene. Here, as against the unit of evolution being a species acting at the level of an individual, here the unit is an individual acting at the level of a gene. According to this model, humans just as other life forms are machines, akin to robots, built by the genes in DNA, to further their own goal of survival and propagation. Its not that genes have brains and are purposeful. Rather, it’s in their nature, just as its in the nature of hydrogen, to go pop in presence of oxygen and form steam.

Hero-Image-LifeSciences-GeneralSome may say, well but it’s all just theory. But it’s the best theory in town. And it’s a scientific theory, something which is objective and thus unbiased by our human inclinations and temptations. And the standards of science before a hypothesis is established as a theory are really high. Beyond all the petty bickering that goes on, what we have now is a paradigm that is empowering and humbling at the same time. And as is the purpose of models in science, it gives perspective. And such refreshing and encompassing a perspective it is.