Nature of Matter

23/08/2010 § 1 Comment

Earlier today, we had our very first real Biology class. We were required to really listen to the lecture given by Mr. Ferguson and were first introduced to the basic concepts of what we were to learn about biology (and little bits of chemistry) in this unit.

Today, I think we all got a slightly better idea for an answer to our essay question: How does complexity emerge from simplicity? Honestly, how does simplicity end up at all as complexity when it’s supposed to be simple in the first place?

What helped the class understand how small things build up larger complexities and structures, life and living organisms was the slideshow-picture-presentation that consisted of snapshots starting with the universe, the entire galaxy, a photo of space showing our solar system, the Milky Way as a small dot. The slideshow continued on to show the Milky Way, then the different planets, to Earth, focusing on North America, then more specifically Florida, then a university, then slowly onto a plant, into its cells, then its DNA strands and finally to one single proton.

The slideshow showed that the construction and overall structure of environments and organisms begin with the smallest and simplest particle in the simplest unit of life. Eventually, these units build up, I guess, to form what we see as organs, people, plants, animals, maybe even non-living things, with all of the chemicals and elements we learned about in class.

Now, I still don’t know exactly how the atoms form together and join and magically construct organs in an animal or such, but at least, with today’s lesson, we got the idea of how small the unit really is (in terms of micrometers, dividing nanometers into pico-meters and etc.). With this little information, we can actually begin the path to figuring out how complexity emerges from simplicity now that we know a bit about the simplicity section of the essay question.

In terms of what we learned in class, however, we slowly moved to chemistry towards the last half hour of Biology. We learned lots about the different kinds of elements, what molecules make them up, and the different bonds that the molecules make. More importantly, we learned that in an element, the first shell can only fit two electrons and the second and third shells can only fit eight electrons. These numbers are all based simply on the volume that is inside the element itself. With that, we were also introduced to a few of the ways some molecules try and become the “ideal molecule” with two electrons in the first shell and eight electrons in the outer shells.

It was all rather fascinating, really. I asked whether these units were alive because they move around so much. Apparently, they could be living, or they could be lifeless; it all depends on your point of perspective. Maybe the atoms just live on the energy that they get from their electrons, but I wouldn’t know. Hopefully we discuss the topic of how these molecules work more. Indeed, how do such small and simple units become what the world and the galaxies and the universe is today?

§ One Response to Nature of Matter

  • cafergy says:

    I just love your blog! You are really engaged with the concepts and putting the pieces together well. But, more importantly your blog expresses the wonder of it all, the amazing ability of nature to produce complexity from simplicity. How does it happen, indeed!

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