Monday, July 18, 2011

Lars the Amoeba

There was an amoeba. For the purposes of this blog post, he was fully capable of thought, was self-aware, and was named Lars. Also for the purposes of this blog post, these three phenomena are typically amoebic patterns in nature. Just go with it.

Lars was a perfectly normal amoeba—filled with cytoplasm and DNA, going about his life with his shapeless single-celled friends, no visible mutations that would cause him to evolve into a “more advanced” being. No, Lars was an average amoeba, whatever average means by protozoan standards. If you’re curious, Lars was an Amoeba proteus, so he was fairly large compared to other species of amoeboids. But this isn’t about the other puny mono-cells. This is about Lars, the average amoeba.

We observe Lars whilst in the midst of phagocytosis. Some people feel self-conscious when being watched as they process food, but Lars is an amoeba, so he obviously doesn’t mind. We jot down a few notes about how Lars’ meal enters his food vacuole. It doesn’t matter that we’re watching Lars digest his food without his consent. He is an amoeba, and has little regard for humanoid concerns such as modesty and privacy.

Lars feels an odd sensation. It’s minutely painful, like a stretching from every point in his single-celled body. If he had read The Princess Bride, he would have compared it to the suction-cup machine that sucks on every inch of Wesley’s skin*. If he knew what Chinese water torture was, he would have thought the sensation would drive him mad in the same manner. If Lars had a mouth, or the capacity to express his emotion vocally, he would have wanted to scream. But Lars was an amoeba, so he has none of these thoughts or inclinations. And then, the sensation is relieved. If he was able, Lars would have breathed a sigh of relief, as he felt like a huge weight had been lifted. He expands and contracts his cytoplasm, stretching his tiny amoebozoan body. Suddenly, Lars is aware of another entity of equal size in close proximity. Lars, through his remarkable protozoic sleuthing, determines that this other being had been a part of him. Lars feels proud—he had created an entirely new existence, purely of his own cytoplasm and nuclear matter. And this new presence would go onto split itself infinitely (or at least until the petri dish reached its carrying capacity) into new amoebic entities. Lars fancies himself the father of an entire race of amoebae. He is the asexual patriarch of the entirety of the petri dish, and is quite predictably drunk with the power.

But the Venn diagram that people who care about amoebae and people who aren’t amoebae is rather small, if not single-cellular. And so, after we finish our observations, we dispose of Lars and his spawn in the proper biological waste disposal.

*No, bro. It’s not in the movie. The movie is good, but seriously, the book is legit. Try reading it.


Lately, I've been thinking about time travel, and the role our decisions make in the space-time continuum. Thus, my perception of myself has been fluctuating between significance and insignificance. I'm not quite sure if every breath I take and minute decision I make impacts the future (or past, depending on your perspective on time travel and its potential), or if my life, in context with the entire history of the world, is virtually insignificant. I don't have any finite knowledge on if humans have more of a tendency to hyper-inflate their role, or overlook their impact. If significance follows with practically every other human concept, it probably falls in some grey area. Funny thing about satire: it doesn't work well with expressing grey areas.

If you desire another perspective of the confusion that significance entails, consider our size. We are composed of a bajillion cells, which are composed of a bajillion molecules. And each molecule is composed of atoms, which are composed of tiny particles, which are composed of even tinier particles. We're kind of a big deal. Except not really. This planet has a massive number of inhabitants. Compared to the number people that do, will, and have inhabited this planet, the number of people that will ever be cognizant of your existence is very, very, small. And that's only on Earth. Nearly everyone has seen those scales that point out how small the Earth is compared with the Sun, and how small The Solar System is compared with the galaxy, and how small the galaxy is compared with other galaxies, and how small even the largest galaxy is with only the furthest points in space that our puny humanoid technology can fathom.

And yet, my hyper-inflated ego can't help but think that everything I and every other puny human does is influential.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

On Eras Ending

Many, many things have ended this year—my grandfather’s life, my high school education, my stint with my crappy excuse for a laptop, the Harry Potter franchise as we know it, government-funded manned spaceflight. But curiously, none of these terminations make me sad. Sentimental, perhaps, but not sad.

I’m no theologian, and my views on practically everything are probably largely skewed from reality, but I find it hard to imagine anything concept or thing that is perpetual, save the law that nothing is perpetual. Either that, or everything is perpetual, and part of a larger scale (but for the purpose of this blog post, this theory is irrelevant). It’s difficult for me to theorize in between these two extremes.

As much fun as it is to imagine a machine of perpetual motion, or how comforting it is to convince myself of a continuous being with no end or beginning, the likelihood of either idea to my humble human mind is slim. It does not upset me when things reach their end at the expected point, because I’m under no illusions that anything has a constant perpetuation for eternity. With my grandfather, or high school, or Harry Potter, or government-funded manned spaceflight, it was inevitable that these things had to end. Am I completely callous that I’m happy about death? No. Just accepting that it happens.

The thing about death is that I don’t think it can exist without birth. The things in this material world do not reside on a mere line, but an infinite series of line segments. Just as ends are a part of this reality, so too are beginnings. The beauty of this world is that it’s constantly changing. Chapters will end, but the book continues. Is it cliché? Yes. But the realization of this helps so much in living in the present and for the future, rather than dwelling in the past.

I am not upset about high school ending—I have college, a career, and life to look forward to. Nor am I upset about Harry Potter—the thing about literature and film, is that they don’t occur in a single point in time. And new literature and film is constantly being released, serving as a artful documentation of who we were and are as a people. The end of government-funded manned spaceflight is not the end of an era, but the first chapter of a brilliant and beautiful story of competition and discovery, and we still have much of the tale to uncover. Given the laws of a function f(x), no x coordinate can repeat twice. But that’s what makes it a function, just as progress defines humanity.


On another note... so basically, Dumbledore is Morgan Freeman?

Friday, July 8, 2011


Let's talk about "being yourself". As in, "you just aren't yourself lately". Or, "just be yourself, and you'll be fine". What does that even mean? Who else would you be behaving as, if you weren't behaving as yourself?

Phrases like that frustrate me to no end. The "self" to which they refer isn't actual internal thoughts and tendencies, but outward perception. When someone tells you that "you just haven't been yourself lately", they don't refer to a change in your mental state, but a change in the patterns of behavior they perceive.

Assuming that there aren't actually aliens that constantly monitor human brainwaves, thoughts are completely private. We aren't even cognizant of most of our own thoughts. They are the true definition of "self". As long as you are thinking, and thus, existing, you can be no one but yourself. You can present a facade that is not your innate self, you can conceal your self, but you cannot actually be any other self but your own.

Because I'm infatuated with paradoxes, and feel a compulsive need to point them out, here you go: Although people are constantly evolving (or devolving) in their mental state, which we refer to as the self, this evolution of self is actually an innate part of the constant self. Change is a part of consistency.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ideal Gas Laws and The Bachelor

Perhaps it's the base desire for survival and procreation, but humans are obsessed with contrived romance. Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and other movies in which love is requisite for survival are forced on us from a young age. If you ask any seven-year-old girl about her future plans, it's always "when I get married...", not "if". As if marriage is assumed. It puts a little bit of pressure on people.

Take, for instance, The Bachelor. Now, I'm not an expert on the show, nor do I have much of a desire to watch reality television, but it's a pretty simple concept: throw a bunch of darts to the wall, and hope one sticks. Except, with the added pressure, it's more than just hoping one sticks. It's jamming each dart into an already adhesive wall with incredible force, and then yanking all but one of them out in the most dramatic fashion possible. But with roses. Under those circumstances, of course an attraction is going to form between the two parties. They are so heavily pressured to do so that they convince themselves of love and all that sappy jazz. But then, when exposed to the real world, our metaphorical wall loses its adhesion, and thus, we end up with glorious People articles at which we snicker whilst in line at Walgreens.

For those of us who best understand things when explained in scientific terminology (just me?), this phenomenon can best be expressed by Kinetic-Molecular Theory and the Ideal Gas Laws (that would be a good name for a band...). Gas molecules, in ideal circumstances, lack enough mutual attraction to overcome their kinetic energy. Theoretically, gas molecules will ignore each other. They are in constant, random motion, and have an ever-constant amount of energy that results in perpetually elastic collisions. These ideal gas molecules are like your average run-of-the-muck people who naturally feel little attraction for each other. But the thing about gas molecules is that they don't always behave in the cookie cutter ideal fashion. At low temperatures and high pressures, the kinetic energy decreases, and the attractive forces are less easy to overcome. As is the case with people. Under pressure, attraction is easily feigned, and people actually see some connection that otherwise would not exist. Yet when the pressure is relieved, and our pair is exposed to reality, well... Jake realized that Vienna isn't all she was cracked up to be.

Televised or otherwise, all relationships are built on pressure. I call it the "naming the puppy" bias. The acknowledgment phenomenon. Essentially, in recognizing an attraction exists or defining a relationship, a pressure for further attraction is created. That's not to say pressure is a bad thing--it adds expectations, and expectations can certainly be a good thing--consider the historical success of arranged marriage. However, it begs a question exclusive to self-cognizant beings, and non-applicant to gas molecules: if pressure alters the natural flow of attraction, and attraction tends to inevitably result in a defined relationship, does the natural flow attraction innately alter itself and render pressure natural?

Please note that the assertions made in this post were made observationally rather than experimentally. I am by no means an expert of experience on the subject of relationships. Just obsessed with paradoxes.