Medicine is a beautiful thing and being healthy is among the most liberating of foundations that one can possibly have. The science, or understanding, of the human body in the last century has resulted in the saved life’s of literally, hundreds of millions of people, if not more. From a reduction in maternal mortality and infant deaths, to correction of malnutrition, new vaccines, and hundreds of initiatives that have all resulted in a vast increase in the length and quality of life for billions around the world.
In researching a chapter in my just released book, I came across many medicines and technologies that will be essential to our health someday. Everyday we discover new things about the human body that will aid in the search of greater health and I’m putting this post together in my head as an experiment to what the future of medicine and health could look like in the future.
Do You Know the Meaning of Life?
I do. There isn’t one! Shocked? Now that that’s out of the way. Let me explain why. The Universe was created from nothing, or quite possibly something. We don’t know what there was before it happened, multiple theories abound about parallel universes, 11 dimensions but I digress.
What we do know is that since the Big Bang, the Universe has followed a predictable rulebook that repeats itself ad infinitum and will continue to do so until maximum entropy (heat death) of the Universe. This predictable rule is an increase in the complexity of matter. From Hydrogen through to the other 91 naturally occurring elements on the periodic table.
This same increase in complexity is how evolution has also progressed; from single-celled organisms to the 50 trillion celled Ape cousin writing this. So the question remains, if everything around us is predictable to a certain extent, how can there be a meaning of life? It wasn’t magic or spontaneous, but inevitable, and with an estimated 2 billion Earth-like planets in our Milky Way galaxy alone, and at least 100 billion other galaxies in the observable Universe, you can bet a fat kid some cake that there is life elsewhere.
Life just is. The Universe doesn’t operate on our needs or wants, or biases and prejudices, or our hopes and aspirations. It just does, and it just is. We can try to make sense of how the Universe operates, the hows and the whats, but never the why. We will never get a 3rd party perspective on the Universe because we can never go out and look back in. Even if we could, we might only find other Universes further pushing the question into the realm of impossibility.
Therefore, the question may as well not exist.
Now just because there isn’t a general meaning of life, doesn’t mean there can’t be a personal meaning of life. In the words of Carl Sagan “We are the custodians of Life’s meaning”. Life is not without meaning provided you see in yourself, a purpose to your own life.
Many people think the Universe was created by God. Of those, a few believe the Earth is just a few thousand years old and created it in 6 days. I get into this debate a bit, and routinely the defense of the other party is that they can’t imagine it happening any other way. Somehow ignorance became knowledge of God. Anyway, even though I know most of those people won’t read this, I’m going to explain how it happened anyway. An exercise in futility if you will…
But before I begin, a short rant. Just because you don’t know where something came from doesn’t mean it was invented. There are those who hold onto a belief in God because they see a Universe that seems designed. A world so perfect (even though it isn’t, our technology just makes it seem so) for us to live on that it couldn’t have just happened by itself, of course they neglect to remember (or just don’t know) it is amiable to us because we evolved to adapt to it, not the other way around, and 99.99% of all species of animals that have ever roamed the earth, went extinct over the eons, so God created an imperfect world for them for…what? Why did he create them in the first place? There’s also the small notion that the rest of the Universe, so far remains inhospitable to human life. Hmm. On the scale of the cosmos, we don’t register at all, not even a blip. Of course, if you still want to believe God did it, then all by means, knock yourself out. No one is going to force you to believe anything you don’t want too. Just remember, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan so succinctly put it.
With that out-of-the-way, let’s get started!
13.72 billion years ago, a singularity exploded creating space and time. In the first few seconds, inflation occurred (exponential increase in size beyond what is occurring today), and during this inflation, little quantum jitters were magnified, creating tiny imperfections in the fabric of spacetime. Before the Big Bang, neither space nor time existed so the question of what came before the big bang isn’t a question. During the big bang, three gaseous elements were created in descending quantities; hydrogen (77%), helium (23%), and trace amounts of lithium. As the Universe expanded, it cooled down, naturally dissipating its heat. This all happened in just the first few minutes.
Then, matter started attracting other matter gravitationally, due to those tiny imperfections (otherwise everything would’ve been pulling equally on everything else and would remain formless). After lots of time, there were clumps of matter around the place swirling around and forming into spheres generating heat (friction). The bigger a clump of gas got, the more pull it exerted on other gas floating around, and other gas clumps nearby. As these clumps got bigger, the swirling gas within them start moving faster around each other and generating ever more heat. The bigger the clumps became, the faster the gas moved, and the more gas that was attracted, and the more heat was generated. Eventually, this heat reached a critical temperature and nuclear fusion began. At this juncture, the clump of gas turns into a star. Nuclear fusion is the process of smashing two elements together so violently, thereby forming a new element in the process, with 1% of the energy released as electromagnetic radiation; a small sliver of which we perceive as heat, and see as light.
Here, Hydrogen fused into helium, which is eventually fused into Carbon, in turn fused into Oxygen, and so on until Iron and other heavy metals are made. Once heavy metals like Iron are made, the star has reached the end of its life (as it can’t use iron as fuel), and the gravitational inward pull of the star’s mass begins to outweigh the outward push of its weakening nuclear reaction, and it rapidly collapses on itself, breaking the balance that kept the star in equilibrium. If the star is big enough, then the rapidly collapsing frictional-kaleidoscope heats the star’s interior so quickly, so energetically, that it explodes outwards, seeding the Universe with its matter, in what is known as a supernova. It is in supernova that elements heavier than Iron are made. This process repeats ad infinitum until the 92 natural elements are created and flying across the Universe every which way creating other stars, planets, and seeding galaxies. Everything that you are made of came from an exploding star. Side note: If the star is even bigger (about four solar masses), then the gravity is so strong, that it creates a black hole, where the current laws of physics break down.
Then, about nine-billion-years after the Big Bang, in a quiet corner of an ordinary galaxy, untold amounts of dust, ice, rock and even gas begin co-mingling in the aforementioned gravitational process, around a newly forming yellow star, which we would eventually call the Sun, and begin their tumultuous journey to becoming our Solar System. Asteroids and meteors zip around the place seeding these new planets with new elements, and eventually with the building blocks of life, amino acids. In at least our case, one of the commonly accepted theories is that a meteor with amino acids (the building block of proteins: we are made of protein) landed here on Earth. In the ensuing, millions of years. These amino acids mixed with lightning and volcanic activity, becoming organic matter, and then somehow, in a process known as abiogenesis, transformed into single-celled life, of which we believe the first life was an archaea and bacteria. Evolution begins at this point, and within two-billion years, the first multi-celled life appeared as a result, of what we believe was an archaea organism swallowing a bacteria, thereby absorbing its energy allowing it to grow. From here random mutations routinely appear in each successive generation, and those that are conducive to the organisms survival live to pass on their genes. This is known as natural selection via random mutation. It took several hundreds of millions of years from the creation of the Earth to single-celled life, then another couple of billion years to multi-celled life, and then five-hundred million years to hominids, then five-million-years to us, Homo sapiens.
That’s how it all started. Not that hard is it? Of course, I’ve left out a few things such as Dark Energy & Dark Matter, some finer points of planetary formation, and the genetic evidence that links us to that first single-celled archaea, but the core of it is the gist of it. Those extra details I just mentioned fill in the blanks in-between some of the events just told, but the story told without them is easier to digest. It’s easier to first build a foundation, then start building your home, or in this case, your knowledge.