BIOLOGY 103
FALL, 2000
FORUM, WEEK 5 - 7


Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  atoms, molecules ...
Date:  2001-10-05 11:10:11
Message Id:  400
Comments:
Last weeks thoughts have been archived. For this week, as usual, write about whatever you thought interesting/significant/questionable. Here's a question to get you started if you need one:


What is your reaction to the idea that living organisms are made of the same constituents (atoms) as non-living things? That differences between living organisms are not a consequence of differences in the kinds of atoms of which they are made? How good is the evidence for these conclusions? What are their implications for making sense of life?


Name:  Rebekah Rosas
Username:  rrosas@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2001-10-07 22:17:18
Message Id:  411
Comments:
thinking about how few "things" make up all the thousands and thousands of "things" in our world today, just simply blows my mind. it brings us back to the whole diversity question...we need diversity in our lives, yet, once we break it down, we truly are all the same--we are made from the same basic elements. amazing.
Name:  Jennifer Trowbridge
Username:  jtrowbri@haverford.edu
Subject:  Atoms and Molecules
Date:  2001-10-08 03:37:06
Message Id:  412
Comments:
I've read that very few atoms either escape or enter Earth's atmosphere, and when they do, they're usually hydrogen atoms. This means that in the history of the Earth, everything that has existed has been made out of the same atoms. It's amazing to think that the atoms in my body could once have been parts of rock, air, or dinosaurs. It's incredible that we're made up of the same components as everything else on Earth. In another way, though, it does seem to explain why we have the same atoms and molecules as rocks, air, and dinosaurs...
Name:  emi
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  the stuffs of life
Date:  2001-10-08 19:17:26
Message Id:  415
Comments:
So we're talking about the stuff that makes up life--isn't it amazing that we are all made out of the same things? If some of the stuff we have learned about the history of life hasn't inspired any awe from your perspective, then this has got to. I mean, think how complex things must be that we can all be made out of the same non-living particles. I am made out of the same types of atoms in my pencil or in my coffee mug, and yet here I sit breathing and typing at my computer and I'm alive. Who would think that you could make something living out of something that isn't...

This idea seems like it could basically single-handedly challenge our ideas about life or at least help redefine them. We assume that there is a major distinction between the living and non living things and there is from our perspective, but when you go to the basic stuff that makes us up...there's not much difference. In class Professor Grobstein made some statement along the lines of, "Life consists of a very large amount of continually occurring chemical reactions." So we have all these molecules and compounds being built for the purpose of tearing them down to make something else. It seems like the cycle just goes on forever; its a constant matter of building- and why to you build?- to tear down and rebuild it again. So on that level, is there such thing as "progress" in life? because it seems to me that all the energy is being expended to no end because it just keeps going back through the circle (sort of like the ATP cycle for example) and yet I know that without these reactions I would not be alive...


Name:  Rebecca Roth
Username:  rroth@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  comments
Date:  2001-10-09 00:22:39
Message Id:  417
Comments:
While it may be true that all living organisms and non-living things are made from the same basic matter, there is such great diversity in forms of life and in the scope of non-living things. Because of the overwhelming possible variations in how these elements can combine it makes sense that life has developed in divergent ways. An inanimate object and a human are very different despite the similarity in their biochemical composition. Because biochemisty has created organisms capable of reproduction and other higher functions, such organisms have an existence which diverges significantly from the existence of inanimate objects. The similarity in composition between humans and inanimate objects takes on diminshed importance once these variations in biochemistry occur over time. These biochemical variations create a reality for humans and living organims which so diverges from that of inamimate objects that the similarity in our origin becomes an intriguing fact.
Name:  Julie Wise
Username:  jwise@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  buillding blocks
Date:  2001-10-09 16:27:54
Message Id:  418
Comments:
I too am in awe of the concept that we, along with rocks, trees, and coffee mugs, are made up of the same basic building blocks! Keeping this in mind when thinking of diversity when it comes to ourselves, vegetation, and other galaxies - talk about improbable assemblies!!
I also find it fascinating to think about the atoms and molecules that comprise living and non-living things are always in motion with space between them. How strange for that to be known but we don't observe things as constantly changing and we still classify things as solids! How is anything solid?
Name:  Rianna
Username:  rouellet@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  atoms
Date:  2001-10-09 17:29:54
Message Id:  427
Comments:
I'm seeing a pattern here: out of randomness, the order of atomic structure (which in itself can be considered random-electron clouds!), and from that order an infinite number of possibilities which are random in their ability to be manifested, which then create organisms that depend on the order of their parts to live. I find that I can "understand" the reasons given in classes, but when I sit down and think about the basic, atomic reasons for existing (whether living or non-living) I soon lose sense of my individual person and start thinking that everything is merely a different form of everything else, due to the rules that govern atomical interactions.
Name:  Debbie
Username:  dwang@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2001-10-09 21:17:44
Message Id:  428
Comments:
It is interesting how much easier it is for us to differentiate rather than realize the characteristics that show similarities. Many seem to be amazed in contemplating the commonalities of things around us- living and unliving. I think that in order to better understand the differences around us, we first need to observe and recognize the similarities.
Name:  Heather Shelton
Username:  hshelton
Subject:  Difference
Date:  2001-10-10 02:07:11
Message Id:  436
Comments:
Even if we avoid any discussion about atoms, I think that if we stopped and thought about any two things that are fundamentally different, it would be possible to identify at least one thing that they have in common. It is completely amazing that at the base of all of it....everything is made up of similar compontents. But when we are surprised by this idea, what does that tell us about how we define our identity. Why is difference so important? Is it because our culture stresses labels, categories, individuation, and recognition? Or does the problem surround how we understand things that are "different"? Often, I think that difference is interpreted to presuppose distance, and I'm not sure if I see the need to alienate somthing in order to understand it. When we learn to see something that is different, I really think that some people accidently fall into methodology of redefining themselves against the object of difference, (ie. this shrub is short and I am tall). Sometimes I wonder about what we are really doing when we reaffirm the necessity for difference; whether or not we are utilizing a strategy of isolation in order to reinforce our own conceptual notions of superiority. Who are we if we are made out of the same atoms as a rock? Here, difference can be skewed to justify supremacy. Rocks, like humans, are an improbable assembly. Why does the idea have to be so shocking to us?
Name:  Claudia
Username:  cginanni@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2001-10-11 17:13:16
Message Id:  467
Comments:
Rocks, like humans, are improbable assemblies, but humans are vastly more improbable. What I've read in our textbook about the complexity of, for instance, proteins, just floors me. And how many different kinds of them are there in one human? Each protein, theoretically, is encoded by one gene. A Web site I looked at recently says that one human gene contains about 35,000 kb of information. And there are 3,500,000,000 genes in the human genome! Holy cannoli! The exquisitely timed cooperation of these genes to build a living organism -- a prokaryote, even, let alone a human -- makes the most exalted achievements of high-tech engineering look like a couple of lines scrawled in the mud with a stick! And all this came out of a bunch of simple atoms randomly bumping into each other? It sometimes seems nuts even to believe we all exist. As I said today in class, perhaps a chemist can make any organic molecule in the lab, but a chemist is a living system. Somebody still made the molecule; it didn't occur randomly.

Don't worry; I'm not going all creationist on you. But understanding more about the complexity of life has challenged me. One of the most interesting things I came upon while I was trawling the Web for my paper (I'm too old for surfing; I trawl) was an article by one of these systems-theory guys. It's related to the little computer game on the class Web site -- it's about self-organizing systems. Apparently, complex networks of circuits, connected randomly but operating under simple "assembly rules," tend, in certain circumstances, to organize themselves into ordered states. It happens over and over and over again, just as the "life" in the game repeatedly reaches an ordered state. In a fully chaotic system, small perturbations anywhere in the system would result in wild fluctuations throughout the whole system, but ordered systems tend to recover. Those that are poised on the edge of chaos reach order again, but the order changes. It's sort of like evolution -- the computer networks model genomes. Isn't that cool?

I wish I could understand it better, but I can't quite grasp the math, so I'm actually thinking of taking a math course at some point. Now that is vastly improbable. See what science can do?


Name:  
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Universal similarities
Date:  2001-10-12 03:03:49
Message Id:  472
Comments:
Over the past couple of weeks, we've been concentrating on classification of organisms by their differences, and how evolution is not necessairly a progression from one thing to another, but a series of explorations which leads to small differences and creates new species. What amazed me, though, in our discussions this past week, is how much everything in the universe is interconnected. All improbable assemblies are made of the same basic building blocks, they are just put together differently. In terms of size, we've learned that if you get too high up or too far down on the scale, you are left with small clusters of improbable assemblies and lots of empty space. Everything is connected through food chains, habitats, basic make-up, and basic rules of existence. The same patterns repeat themselves over and over again in the universe. So when a rainforest is destroyed in Brazil, when a volcanoe erupts under the ocean, or when people kill each other over "irrepareable differences", no matter where in the world we locate or identify ourselves, we all are affected. Before we go about harping about our differences, we should remember that at one point in time, we were all nothing more than the bits and debris of exploded stars.
Name:  Tua
Username:  schaudhu@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Universal similarities
Date:  2001-10-12 03:04:21
Message Id:  473
Comments:
Over the past couple of weeks, we've been concentrating on classification of organisms by their differences, and how evolution is not necessairly a progression from one thing to another, but a series of explorations which leads to small differences and creates new species. What amazed me, though, in our discussions this past week, is how much everything in the universe is interconnected. All improbable assemblies are made of the same basic building blocks, they are just put together differently. In terms of size, we've learned that if you get too high up or too far down on the scale, you are left with small clusters of improbable assemblies and lots of empty space. Everything is connected through food chains, habitats, basic make-up, and basic rules of existence. The same patterns repeat themselves over and over again in the universe. So when a rainforest is destroyed in Brazil, when a volcanoe erupts under the ocean, or when people kill each other over "irrepareable differences", no matter where in the world we locate or identify ourselves, we all are affected. Before we go about harping about our differences, we should remember that at one point in time, we were all nothing more than the bits and debris of exploded stars.
Name:  Jessica Blucher
Username:  jblucher@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Class
Date:  2001-10-12 10:48:24
Message Id:  474
Comments:
I've really enjoyed the past few classes. The whole evolution/improbable assemblies thing is very interesting and I loved the game of life. Learning in Bio 103 is so much better than my old science classes. I'm understanding things quicker and enjoying the learning process more.
Name:  Claudia
Username:  cginanni@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  correction
Date:  2001-10-19 12:52:05
Message Id:  488
Comments:
Amendment to earlier posting: a Web site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Human Genome Program says the human genome is estimated to contain between 30,000 and 40,000 genes. That's a whole lot less than 3,500,000,000, which is what another Web site said. THe DOE site sais that the number of nitrogenous base pairs in the human genome is roughly 3 billion, so maybe that's where the inflated number came from.
Name:  Monica
Username:  mbhanote@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  ..
Date:  2001-10-19 18:47:56
Message Id:  489
Comments:
I have found the last few discussions in class very interesting because we are able to think about the interconnectedness (if thats a word) of a wide range of organisms, living and non-living. And there are so many different levels by which we can connect with something else. i think humans too often focus on differences in order to create identities rather than find similarities with one another. The interconnectedness should be acknowledged and valued.
Name:  Sarah Sterling
Username:  ssterlin@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  To live, or not to live...
Date:  2001-10-21 17:14:38
Message Id:  491
Comments:
When I think about living organisms being made up of the same atoms as non-living organisms, I'm surprised, but when I really think about it, it makes a lot of sense. It seems more believable to me to think that everything is made up of the same things -- rather than having every organism made up of it's own "special" atoms. Living organisms being made up of the same atoms as non-living organisms also seems to make living things extra special. It's as if we were lucky enough for our atoms to be randomly put together in just the right way to make us living, and create us.
Name:  Margaret Pendzich
Username:  mpendzic@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  identity
Date:  2001-10-21 21:12:36
Message Id:  492
Comments:
A trend that I have noticed in science and in class discussions deal with human identity. When we studied classification, the question arose of why humans feel the need to classify all living species; and now, we have the question of differences between living and non-living things. Since all things are made up of the same atoms, where does this put humans? Are we as special as we like to think that we are? Sure, we are 'improbable assemblies', yet how are we distinct from other highly evolved animals? Why do we try to prove ourselves as distinct or as 'improbable assemblies'? Why are we so intent on creating an identity for ourselves?
Name:  Neema Saran
Username:  nsaran@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Human Identity
Date:  2001-10-22 03:47:29
Message Id:  493
Comments:
As far as "human identity" and the need or rather desire to differentiate ourselves from one another, can be seen on many levels in our society. Humans differentiate themselves from other living-beings, then from animals, and finally, humans differentiate each other from one another. Needless to say, this differentiation can, and often does, lead to human disaster. This constant and seemingly inherent need to differentiate, I think, may be a way of finding our own legitimacy in our "improbable assembly"


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