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Frame of Reference - Index

Quartus Stele

Chemistry - Alchemy

1) The use of chemistry has been fundamental to the lives of Man since the beginning -- the chemical hormones in the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden that triggered the puberty of Adam and Eve might be related to the knowledge of that part of chemistry known as herbal science. Then again, that might be a fable. In any case, the use of fire was one early practical application of chemistry.

2) Even though Man demonstrated a mastery of many processes we now understand in terms of chemical reactions, they were innocents when it came to the study and knowledge of chemistry. Chemistry properly defined is the study of the composition of substances, matter and energy, and the changes that occur in the composition of these substances. Modern chemistry has branched into specialties beyond organic and inorganic chemistry, well beyond the imagination of the first scientists in the18th century.

Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794), the great French chemist invalidated the concept of 'phlogiston' as the mysterious material that leaves heated metals causing a reduction of weight. Lavoisier gave the first correct explanation of burning, oxidation. His work, and the work of many chemists blossomed during the period of his professional success, protected by a political environment that allowed scientists to thrive away from the numbing influence of the Catholic Church of that day.

The ends of charred sticks or bones have been used for such work as drawing on cave walls for 30,000 and more years. Now we understand how that is possible.

3) Credit for the discovery of oxygen goes to Joseph Priestley, an English chemist who isolated it by heating the compound mercuric oxide. He followed scientific methods, as did his associate Lavoisier to help make alchemy obsolete. No longer was the formal study of chemistry based on an attempt to purify base metals and turn these into gold. Even Newton before, was preoccupied with experimentation with alchemy. This early scientific work illustrates the habits of good thinking which should become part of the mental equipment of all thoughtful people. We must hold onto the determination to make judgments on the basis of facts, without regard to prejudices, self-interest or previously held beliefs.

4) The composition of Earth, as has been suggested, is unique, with over 46% of all matter being composed of oxygen distributed as follows: 20% of the air, 89% of the oceans and 46% of the soil and rocks. Oxygen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. Oxygen is contained in water both in combination with hydrogen, and in dissolved, unstable solution (aquatic animals gain their oxygen from this free oxygen in water). Oxygen can be liquefied at a very low temperature, -183 degrees C., and if the temperature is still further reduced to -218 degrees C. liquid oxygen will become solid. It is said that the most popular color in Oregon is rust, because of the reputed prevalence of rain (along the West coast). The oxygen from the rain produces rust much faster than oxygen from the air. One reason for the high value placed on gold and platinum is that they do not combine with oxygen in the air. The tarnish on silver is the affect of oxygen.

5) Oxygen plays many roles in keeping Earth safe. The formation and accumulation of the allotropic form of oxygen, Ozone, is important in shielding Earth from harmful ultraviolet light. (see Secundus Stele, Earth, verse 16) Ozone is a pale blue gas that also contributes its talent to the creation of the blue skies. Ozone also has a negative side, being the chief ingredient in smog and air pollution detrimental to plant growth.

6) Living forms continuously breathe, animals breathe air through their noses and plants take in oxygen through their roots (and from water). For every gallon of gas an engine uses it must also consume all the oxygen in more than a hundred pounds of air. That is the volume of air that fills an ordinary room, all invisible. Each gallon of gas burned takes the same amount of oxygen that a dozen people require in a whole day.

On the balancing scale a pile of wood burning (oxidizing) will loose weight and rise compared to its equal counterweight because of the loss of carbon and other elements. If all the material of combustion, gasses and ashes are retained and weighed, the weight of the whole will have increased because of the addition of oxygen. (Archeologists have excavated a workable equal-arm balance that was in use in pre-dynastic Egypt, six thousand years ago, probably associated with the art of chemistry.)


The Alchemist

There lives an old man at the top of the street,
And the end of his beard reaches down to his feet,
And he's just the one person I'm longing to meet,
I think that he sounds so exciting;
For he talks all the day to his tortoise shell cat,
And he asks about this, and explains about that,
And at night he puts on a big wide-awake * hat
And sits in the writing-room, writing.
He has worked all his life (and he's terribly old)
At a wonderful spell which says, "Lo, and Behold!
Your nursery fender is gold!" - and it's gold!
(Or the tongs, or the rod for the curtain);
But somehow he hasn't got hold of it quite,
Or the liquid you pour on it first isn't right,
So that's why he works at it night after night
Till he knows he can do it for certain.

*So as not to go to sleep.

(A. A. Milne, 1924)

8) Hydrogen is the gaseous element with the least mass, and thus least affected by gravity, one fifteenth as much as an equal volume of air. Almost all the hydrogen on Earth is in combination with other elements, 11% is combined with Oxygen in water. All living things, both plant and animal, contain hydrogen as part of the protoplasm and DNA structure, and so does Sun and the stars. All acids are hydrogen compounds and transfer hydrogen to substances with which they come into contact. Hydrogen was discovered in 1766 by Henry Cavendish (1731-1810), an English chemist, as the gas arising from the combination of acids to certain metals. Other forms of hydrogen, such as hydrogen peroxide have become useful for many purposes, including bleaching and germ-killing.

9) Much of the cold empty Space between the stars of the galaxy is in fact 'filled' with free, single hydrogen atoms. These are few and far between; space is much closer to a vacuum than anything we can make in the laboratory. A tenth as much hydrogen as we find in all the stars of the galaxy is out there in cold dilute form, as lonely atoms. In 1970 a spectroscope was sent into space orbit and it was determined that there is as much molecular (H2) hydrogen to be found in the cosmos as there is atomic hydrogen, but it was hidden from view because it does not have the same spectral characteristic as atomic hydrogen. So we keep learning and being surprised by new discoveries of matter hidden in the traces of Universe.

10) Most of the stars are composed of the same material according to discoveries made by Cecilia Payne in 1925. The differences that we see from star to star in spectral lines is not due to different elements but due to different temperatures of the same common gaseous mixture of elements. Stars are in general quite uniform. The hot gas of the stars contains many more atoms of hydrogen than it does of any other element, for example there are a million atoms of hydrogen to one atom of calcium, and far more hydrogen atoms than all the other elements put together. Universe is composed primarily of hydrogen (90%) and 9% helium. These atoms are relatively less abundant on Earth. The matter of Universe is therefore fundamentally simple. Its atoms are young, pristine, most are little evolved. In order to make more complex atoms, matter must be cycled through the nuclear reactors of stars and then expelled. (So that is the method of creation, in case you have an ambition to be a god.)

Atoms of hydrogen are composed of one positively charged particle called a proton according to an American, Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), in 1911. The negatively charged electron in 'orbit' around it was discovered by Sir Joseph John Thomson (1856-1940), an English scientist, in 1897. A third type of particle, the neutron, was discovered in the atom by an English scientist, James Chadwick (1891-1974), in 1932. The neutron and proton each weigh about the same, each about 1845 times as much as an electron alone. There are other particles inside some atoms, positrons, anti-protons, mesons, photons, but it is the protons and electrons that make the important distinction between one element and another, the atomic number and valence. This was established by Henry Moseley (1887-1915) in 1912 and is popularized as the Periodic Chart of elements. (Our knowledge is so recent!)

11) Democritus thinking about nature in ancient Greece postulated and named the 'atom' as the essential simple building block of nature. In 1799, during the fantastic era of French chemistry, Louis Joseph Proust published his Law of Definite Proportions: every chemical compound always contains the same elements in the same proportions by weight. Then the English schoolteacher, John Dalton (1766-1844) developed his 'atomic theory:'

1. All matter is made up of small, indestructible particles called atoms.
2. Atoms of any element are alike in all their properties; atoms of different elements are unlike in their properties.
3. Atoms may combine with other atoms to form larger particles called molecules.
4. Only whole atoms take part in chemical changes.
5. Atoms do not lose their identity in chemical changes.
Thus we have a Nature of interchangeable parts that follows a definite order. Each time a given compound of atoms is formed it performs the same function as any other compound of the same structure. This is an important point to remember when we study the origins of life. There are so many combinations of elements possible that many physical properties, like tools in an elaborate tool box, make up the potentiality of nature. These properties dictate the behavior of molecules according to rules, not chance.

Dalton formulated the Law of Multiple Proportions: when two elements, A and B combine to form two or more compounds, the ratios of the weights of B that combine with a fixed weight of A are small whole numbers (invariable for each case).

12) How could all these facts come together at once; what are the probabilities? Carbon is the fourth most abundant cosmic element after hydrogen, helium and oxygen. It is also the basis of terrestrial life, but it is not present on Earth in this proportion (about .02% of Earth, 18% of living things). Carbon atoms are made inside suns (solar nucleosynthesis) by combining three helium nuclei. The trick is to get two helium nuclei to stick together until they are struck by a third. This depends on the internal resonance of carbon and oxygen nuclei. Were the carbon resonance level only 4 percent lower, carbon atoms wouldn't form in the first place. Were the oxygen resonance level only half a percent higher, virtually all the carbon would be combined with helium to form oxygen. No carbon, no development of life. Universe is full of these complex 'coincidences' and near misses, but these do not contribute to any proof of the existence of god; or if these did, which god is proved?

The story of carbon isn't all miracle and virtue. Carbon forms several molecules including Carbon monoxide. The carbon has four electrons to share (valence of + or - 4) but uses only two of these with one atom of oxygen, the extra electrons can unite with the hemoglobin of the blood to form a stable compound making it impossible for the blood to pick up oxygen in the lungs. Carbon monoxide poisoning results in suffocation. Carbon monoxide is colorless, has no appreciable odor, acts painlessly, and quickly produces drowsiness and paralysis of the lungs (creating a hazard for cave dwellers). Carbon monoxide has useful industrial properties, and as such offers a good example of the complexity found in nature. Carbon monoxide is used as fuel; its reducing action is useful in extraction of metals, especially iron; it is used to manufacture synthetic wood alcohol and formaldehyde.

Why are neutrons slightly more massive than protons? Because if protons were just one percent heavier they would spontaneously decay into neutrons, in which case hydrogen atoms could not exist, nor stars shine. No stars, no life as we know it. This is another false dilemma as above with the vibration of the carbon atom. These near misses do not obligate a creator to exist to solve such problems, since these are not problems, but the fundamental nature of the GIVEN Universe.

13) The larger a sun is, the faster it consumes its fuel resources (Hydrogen and Helium). The fusion burn rate is estimated to go up at the cube of the sun's mass. Thus a giant sun ten times more massive than Sun expends its resources a thousand times faster and comes to a quicker demise. Sun started with enough mass to power its life for 10 billion years and is now almost half that age. There are many suns ten times larger, and these will expire in 10 million years or less, from their beginning. Universe must be packed with these condensed massive "white dwarf" and "neutron" stars (definition to follow).

The analogy can be drawn between the size of stars and the size of the human ego: possibly modesty and humility, espoused in Frame of Reference, will contribute in the same way to human longevity. "Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised!" (Good News Bible, The New Testament, Matthew, 5:5)

14) There is no one more lonely than those who love only themselves. (Meditate on the lonely hydrogen atoms in space.)

It is said that people are attracted to each other by an essential 'chemistry.' This attraction is communicated between two people by their personalities, even by body language, both positively and negatively. The emotional (electrical or chemical) attraction between two infatuated lovers is palpable and well documented in poetry.

Egotists always grumble, for egotism can never be satisfied. (Jewish tradition)

"There is more hope for a stupid fool than for someone who speaks without thinking." (Also written: "Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope of a fool than of him.") (The Bible, Book of Proverbs, 29:20)

"A man's pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit." (Book of Proverbs, 29:23)

The actual chemical nature of animal emotional response is well established in studies of hormones, pheromones and other substances produced by useful glands and organs. Some of these responses, when shared honestly, can be the source of intimate bonding that leads to monogamy in many species including Homo sapiens, and is reinforced by pleasant and even exciting sexual contact between long-time lovers. Some day it will be common to ask a new friend, "What's your valence?" rather than "What's your sign?"

15) As implied, chemical evolution is at work in all the galaxies because suns are chemical factories, of sorts. It is the nature of stars to brew using hydrogen, found in surplus proportions, and helium into heavier elements, thus old galaxies are more chemically complicated and varied than young ones. But they all do the same work, no chance happenings or errata. Molecules are built within the interstellar thunderheads known as giant molecular clouds and on planets, such as Earth.

Life on Earth can be viewed as following the same laws as elsewhere, and some biologists feel that a chicken is an egg's way of making another egg, and that all living creatures are the mechanism that DNA molecules employ to make more and varied DNA molecules. This would suggest that the principle of evolution, adaptation, mutations and survival of the fittest are as universal as the laws of quantum mechanics (see Tertius Stele: Physics, verses 15-17). The very laws of nature seem to have evolved from simpler, original laws, which in turn may have arisen from a state of primordial lawlessness.


"When people seek spirituality apart from life, as if it had nothing to do with the material world, their search is futile. All creeds and cults have a tendency to emphasize some fragmentary aspect of life, but true spirituality is total in its outlook. The essence of spirituality does not consist in a specialized or narrow interest in some imagined part of life but in a certain enlightened attitude to all the various situations that occur in life. It covers and includes the whole of life. All the material things of this world can be made subservient to the divine game; and when they are thus subordinated, they become auxiliary to the self-affirmation of the spirit. The value of material things depends upon the part they play in the life of the spirit." (Meher Baba, Discourses, 1967)
Compare this to the statements emanating from quantum mechanics, which imply a close relationship between matter and 'spiritual' forces we cannot understand. In this context, can reading and appreciating Frame of Reference be a spiritual experience? I would like to think so.

17) Light consists of subatomic particles (also measurable as waves) called photons. An atom releases a photon when one of its electrons drops from a higher to a lower orbital shell. (Sounds simple enough, meditate on this for a while: consider that all light in Universe is created by this simple act.) The atom becomes less energetic and the excess energy is emitted as the photon. Sunlight is produced by an accumulation of energy from this transition at the atomic level, and as suggested earlier, light carries a good deal of information (obtainable by spectroscope analysis) about its origin and journey to arrive here. For example, the element Helium was discovered in sunlight in 1868 before it was found on Earth; it was given the Greek name 'helio' for Sun.

18) Energy is not a substance, visible or invisible. It is an intangible, abstract measure that applies to many forms of change, motion, light, sound, magnetism, and chemical reactions like the burning of fuel or the digestion of food. All these changes and more can be described as the transformation of energy from one form to another. Energy flows freely -- from form to form -- in the process of change, and once you learn to take account of its flows, you find that it never disappears and never appears. It may enter or leave, but it is always accountable in full. It never vanishes, it never comes anew out of nowhere. (There was never a creation, only a transformation.) That is why, if you're paying to heat your home, it is not necessarily cost efficient to go around turning off all the lights, over and over. The light will turn into heat, and you may help the bulb live longer by giving it fewer starts and stops.

A teakettle spouts water vapor furiously as it boils. The water gets no hotter; most of the energy that flows in from the hot flame beneath goes right out of the kettle spout in the form of steam. That kind of evaporative cooling is much more effective than dry airflow. Losing steam is twenty times more economical -- in water used per unit of energy -- than to shed warm water as liquid beads of sweat. Sweating is in fact a kind of failure of the cooling system of the body, a sign that cooling has reached some local limit. A wet canvas bag is very effective at dissipating heat to keep drinking water cooler than the ambient air temperature.

19) Elemental chemistry has been undone by recent developments in astronomy and physics. Once the atomic fire of a sun is extinguished it collapses in less than one second, from a core the size of Earth, for example, to the size of a medium sized office building. This sun explodes its outer envelope of gaseous material as the core contracts, displaying a brief supernova event. If the core mass is 1.4 times Sun or less, it becomes a white dwarf because of a law called the "exclusion principle" dictating the atomic super-structure. In this vast chemistry lab of stars, alchemy becomes reality and all the elements are manufactured.

If the core of a dying sun is larger than 1.4 solar masses, its gravity overwhelms the exclusion principle and electrons are smashed into protons, turning into neutrons, resulting in the neutron star. Neutron stars typically measure less than 10 miles in diameter, but contain a dense core much greater than Sun. Even the atomic nuclei loses its integrity becoming a 'superfluid' more viscous than the finest oil on Earth. The envelope surrounding this core is about one mile thick, consisting of atomic nuclei, and then an outer layer of nuclei and electrons. A neutron star is presumed to resemble a giant ball bearing, spinning rapidly, more than one thousand times per second. Some neutron stars emit radio beams which might strike Earth as a rapidly beeping pulse, and are identified as 'pulsars.'

This phenomenon of superfluid matter may have been duplicated at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. The relativistic Heavy Ion Collider there has begun to probe subatomic secrets by smashing gold at virtually the speed of light. This even causes protons and neutrons to disintegrate, forming a meld of particles called a quark-gluon plasma. This state of matter is so rare that the only previous event is considered to be a micro-second after the Big Bang. (www.popsci.com)

20) Molecules containing the same elements in different proportions, have dramatically different physical properties. Carbon dioxide is a harmless gas that we exhale in breathing, which plants 'inhale,' and Carbon monoxide is a deadly poison if breathed in large quantities. Water (H2O) and hydrogen peroxide is another example of simple elements that combine in different ratios and perform dramatically different functions in our everyday lives. Once elements began to form in the galaxies, there was a whole permutation of equipment out of which a planet such as Earth could begin to build a complex eco-system from these influential elements. Expand this fundamental process by the combination of elements into molecules and the possibilities expand exponentially into what we see every day.

21) The most likely source of Earth's carbon is carbon dioxide gas released in the atmosphere by volcanoes. Less than 1% of carbon occurs in the atmosphere, about 60 times as much occurs in the ocean as dissolved carbon dioxide. Most carbon occurs as solid materials in sedimentary rocks. About 77% is found in carbonate minerals contained in limestone and dolomite deposits; the balance occurs in finely divided particles from ancient animals and plants that have been buried in sedimentary rocks, particularly dark-colored shales (coal and diamonds). If the large-scale removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide had not occurred throughout most of Earth's history, then the gaseous cover would be like Venus and Mars and would be inhospitable to the development of man. Even so, Carbon is a minor element compared to Oxygen or Hydrogen. Earth and its nacient life forms removed carbon from the atmosphere as busily as it was adding more oxygen.

22) The most influential chemistry book of the early twentieth century was The Nature of the Chemical Bond, 1939, by Linus Pauling. He was regarded as the premier chemist of his age, and proclaimed that no vital forces, only chemical bonds, underlie life. It's one thing to make such a claim and quite another to support it. Science isn't entirely unanimous on Pauling's claims of beneficial effects for mega-doses of vitamin C, either. Life goes on, but this simple fact is not credited to Dr. Pauling.

23) Earth is mostly a closed system. All its material cycles are used, reused, restored, modified, but seldom to be lessened or lost. A few plants and animals and their progeny live their lives among unseen microbial partners with a mostly fixed inventory of material, and the cycle of growth and decay continues only slightly changed each millennium. The composition of Earth is:

46.73% Oxygen
27.77% Silicon
8.14% Aluminum
5.12% Iron
3.62% Calcium
2.85% Sodium
2.60% Potassium
2.10% Magnesium
.127% Hydrogen (remember our Sun is 90% hydrogen)
all others 1.243% (including Carbon)
24) Baryons are particles of ordinary matter, like protons and neutrons. Other matter exists which is not so easy to describe, i.e. neutrinos, similar to electrons, having been created during what is called the "big bang nucleosynthesis." Neutrinos are abundant in Universe, and make up a large portion of the matter needed to account for the "Omega 1" value, which has implications for the shape and destiny of the expanding Universe. If we live in a critical density Universe with Omega = 1, then Universe expansion will continue, less than "1", will bring Universe back to its origin, eventually. Ordinary matter is no more than 10% of the mass of Universe, mostly hydrogen. Other calculations suggest 99% of the mass of Universe is non-baryonic, otherwise called "dark matter," as described earlier. (see Tertius Stele: Physics, verse 35)

25) Jan Oort, a Dutch astronomer, discovered that there is at least twice as much mass in the galactic disk of Milky Way as can be accounted for by adding all visible objects. Fritz Zwicky calculated that the "Coma Cluster" of galaxies is moving faster than can be explained without the acknowledgment that 90% of the mass of these galaxies is made up of dark matter. Other classes of theoretical 'matter' have been described, so the final explanation of what Universe is made of has not been determined.

When we don't know the answers, scientists test theories and hypotheses, tentative answers, and we just keep looking, testing these hypotheses and modifying the theories as needed. Moon is no longer a god and neither is any other part of Universe so we are on our own; that increases our potential. When we turn our hypotheses into belief, that is a departure from science. We must be prepared to modify our ideas as science progresses with new evidence, so it is arguable that a scientific theory should be called a belief in the strict sense of the word.

26) The Cowichan tribes, living on Vancouver Island near the city of Duncan, have a tradition of the "transformer" named Heels. The stories of his willful use of power abound giving him credit for transforming misbehaving and disobedient men into many different species of animals, thus populating the aboriginal forests with many high spirited animals. Modern chemists make such transformations producing all kinds of plastics and pesticides, sometimes with the same callous and arrogant nature as Heels.

The search for knowledge and technology brings with it inherent responsibilities to use each new invention wisely. The use of polluting gases (chlorofluorocarbons) in aerosol cans and air conditioning has put Earth at greater risk of climate change. Reversing this process is underway but serves as an example of how pursuing desirable goals often has unintended consequences.

27) One by-product of the fusion of hydrogen into helium is a ghostly subatomic particle called the "neutrino." Like photons, neutrinos are formed in great quantities inside a sun every second. But, unlike photons that collide repeatedly, neutrinos rarely interact with matter and shoot straight out from the core at the speed of light. Neutrinos are the free spirits of Universe. If stellar theory is correct, about 70 billion of them pass through each square centimeter of Earth (and through our own bodies) each second. (Possibly this is the cause of aging?) So the astrologers are on to something: because the location of the planets and Sun with respect to stars might influence the path neutrinos take and thus affect and change our personalities in mysterious ways? (If you believe this, I have a bridge I would like to sell you.)

After a 25 year search, the 'tau neutrino' has finally been traced and quantified. Scientists shot millions of neutrinos at a stack of photographic plates, then shipped the film to Japan for analysis. It took three years to digitally scan all the plates to create a three-dimensional roadmap and find evidence of only four tau neutrinos. This discovery opens the door for future research using the tau neutrino, including determining if neutrinos have mass. (www.popsci.com)

28) As the ancient Earth cooled to a temperature below the boiling point of water it entered into the Archean Aeon. From the clouds of water vapor rain began to fall; imagine the hurricanes and monsoons that plagued the surface of the cratered Earth. Water flooded and boiled in the calderas of the extinct volcanoes and the recessed surfaces of craters and basalt valleys. Water was flushed from place to place as the crust heaved and expanded. Masses of rock dating to the Archean Aeon are exposed in Canada, Greenland, Africa and Australia. There are smaller outcroppings in South America, Scandinavia, Southern India, elsewhere in Asia, and on the north shore of Antarctica. The Warrawoona Group in Australia date to early in the Archean Aeon.

Bio-chemists know that all life is made of complex molecules called amino acids and an assortment of other chemical building blocks. These have not been found in nature other than as products of organic life. Which came first, amino acids or living things? It turns out that these compounds can be formed easily in circumstances that duplicate the chaos of primordial Earth. (see Secundus Stele: Earth, verse 6) This first step in the origin of life was not a chance event but one that is inevitable in these circumstances. Through its constant agitation, the very hellishness of young Earth would have precipitated the birth of life by throwing these amino acids and organic molecules together in almost infinite combinations. Likewise, the basic ingredients of life fell together not by chance, but by the natural course of chemical transformations. The shock wave of lightning, aside from the tremendous electric current, in circumstances that duplicate primordial Earth, yields simple organic molecules, hydrogen cyanide, ethane and ethylene which are necessary first steps toward life.

29) Photosynthesis is literally 'combining by the action of light' as plants make food from raw elements with the energy from light as the key ingredient. Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere enters the leaf through the stomata and dissolves in the fluids coating the cells of the mesophyll tissues. The 700 and some billion tons of carbon dioxide used by all plants each year is constantly being replenished when respiration by animals and plants occurs and by burning and decay of carbonate materials including plant material. The flow of cytoplasm carries the chloroplasts throughout the cells of the leaf and other tissue. The chloroplasts consist of grana, wafer-like cells stacked together like coins, and each granum carries the several molecules of chlorophyll. These chlorophyll are the vital manufacturing sites for sugar and photosynthate.

Light enters the leaf and excites the molecules breaking down water into hydrogen and oxygen, called photolysis. This is immediately followed by the formation of molecules of a number of different kinds of unstable substances including ATP, adenosine triphosphate, which carries the chemical energy used in the production of the sugars and photosynthate. The process is much more complicated than this brief outline and still remains to some degree a mystery. The development of this process from algae through progressively more complex plants is part of the story of evolution.

30) The first animals to dwell on land came from the ocean and solved the chemical problem of taking oxygen from the air instead of water. The first fossils of insects (invertebrates) are already well developed and diversified by 300 million years ago. The giant dragonflies with a wingspan of nearly 75 cm (about 2 1/2 feet) were the largest living insect and became extinct at the time of the early dinosaurs (at the beginning of the Meosozoic Era). The first vertebrates are the tetrapods, or walking fishes who left behind numerous fossil remains. The lungfishes of today claim this heritage, and in periods of drought they can live below the clay surface and breath air through a pore at the clay surface. (This is a very resourceful chemical solution.) Some of these types have legs; the lobefinned fishes, rhipidistians, are relatives of the coelacanth and lungfish of today. From the lobefins came the walking fishes, probably moving from one pool to another. The amphibian developed from these: frogs, toads and salamanders which hunted insects and worms (and each other). (Another miracle of chemistry, in the mechanism of oxygen utilization.) From these grew the reptiles, better adapted to the chemistry of the land.

In 1938, in deep water off the southern African coast, the first living Coelacanth was caught. It is likely the last survivor of the fish similar to, or the descendant of, the one that gave rise to land animals.

31) Agriculture was developed by primitive Man beginning about 10,000 years ago, initially when conditions were favorable for dryland cultivation. Gradually food production became more sophisticated including plowing, terracing, irrigation, and the use of poorer quality land. This culture was an inadvertent application of chemical technology until in the 19th century science began to explain the relationship between known minerals and plant growth. Most of this art was happenstance well into the twentieth century AD. The exploitation of livestock (for milk, wool and meat) made it possible to utilize the least productive grassland away from the relatively rich bottom land that invented cultivation.

Greek technology was simple and underwent little development. However, reliance on agriculture was essential for the sustenance of the city-state. Greek settlement was rarely at elevations or latitudes too cold for the olive.

Roman agricultural implements comprised slaves, animals and tools, often of good iron manufacture. Life was sustained by barley and wheat sown mostly in the autumn to enjoy the Winter and Spring rains. Durum wheat (tetraploid) evolved in the first millennium BC and has been a staple in Italy (used for spaghetti) since then. Hexaploid bread wheat, 'hard red' was perfected along the north shores of the Black Sea. Some leguminous crops (broad beans and lentils) were known in Mycenaean times and mentioned by Homer. By the fourth century BC these were recommended as partial alternatives to fallow to improve productivity (either as crops or as green manure to be ploughed under). The Romans were proficient in their agricultural practices, but even so their technology was rudimentary.

In both cultures, history was made in the cities, but by far the largest portion of the populations was bound to the soil in rural communities. The territories of the Roman colonies were divided into small farms of similar size by rectangular grids of ditches, banks, and roads (centuriation) which are often traceable today. A technical literature of estate management emerged, principally the manuals of Cato the Elder, Varro and Columella, but these are not studies in the chemistry of agriculture as is essential today.

32) In 1944 DNA or deoxy-ribonucleic acid was extracted from Pneumococcus, the bacteria causing fatal pneumonia. This was known to be a type of nucleic acid which is present in the nuclei and chromosomes of all living cells. DNA was demonstrated to alter the genetic constitution of a microbe in experiments and was determined to be the chemical of heredity. In 1953 the shape of the DNA was described as an enormously long molecule containing a million or more atoms, having the shape of a double helix, and containing slightly different instructions for each different organism.

Each of the helical strands is made of repetitions of only four different building blocks, called A, T, G and C for short. These can occur along the great length of the strands in a host of different serial arrangements. An organism's DNA, taken as a whole, is a specification for all of its genetic structure, and a single gene is a specification for just one bit of that organism. Therefore a gene is a piece of DNA. An average gene is a length of DNA strand containing about 1,000 of the chemical building blocks A, T, G and C. This gene is what orders the manufacture of a particular protein inside a living cell according to the sequence of the four chemical building blocks. A genetic instruction is a particular sequence of genetic code words, each consisting of three chemical bases. For example, GCA and AGG are both genetic code words. There are 64 possible code words (4 X 4 X 4 = 64) making up the genetic code.

The process of making proteins is fundamental to life and much more complex than suggested here. Proteins are both building blocks and enzymes, biological catalysts which enable the tens of thousands of chemical reactions of life to take place. These reactions make a host of substances inside living cells: a very complex chemistry.

Mistakes in this complex process happen, causing mutations. Known causes of mutations include radioactivity, X-rays, hormonal imbalance in the mother and some chemicals. The 'accidental' creation of variety of life is a most important aspect of evolutionary progress, and there is more to it than just a chemical lab set. The forces that produce variety in nature are microscopic and act inside the living reproductive cells such as eggs and sperm, (or pollen) which come together in the act of fertilization.

33) Hydrogen has been widely regarded as the most logical choice for the fuel of the future. The drawbacks are rather large. Handling and storage of this volatile gas are more difficult than for gasoline or propane, which is bad enough. Manufacture has not been efficient to make it cost competitive, although these problems are considered solvable. As gasoline prices go up, and hydrogen production costs go down, the logic of this new fuel will be even more obvious.

One possible source of this hydrogen may be from green algae living in ponds. Normally this algae produces only trace amounts of hydrogen but scientists have discovered that if algae (Chlamydomonas reinhardtii) are deprived of sulfur, photosynthesis slows down. The algae switches from oxygen production to hydrogen production. The algae seems to be able to survive and burn the oxygen it would otherwise discard, at least for a short time. The sulfur is added after two days and then the process can begin again, taking the hydrogen out for other uses.

The one acre pond near our home, which contains a good quantity of algae, might theoretically produce enough hydrogen in one day to drive the newest hydrogen powered Ford 900 miles. Even so, I doubt that I could be convinced to erect a plastic dome, thus displacing our nemesis -- the beaver's lodge -- just to produce hydrogen.

34) Do we know what we don't know? How much of the physical Universe do we understand compared to the lessons that are yet to be learned? It's one thing to see farther and in more detail with ever stronger and stranger telescopes, and quite another to suppose the existence of some class of natural phenomena yet to be conceived. It's not hard to conceptualize in three dimensions of height, length and depth such as in Euclidean geometry (visualize the shape of a standard shoe box). Even at the microscopic level, we can visualize and model the three dimensional shapes of molecules. We can visualize these 'temporal,' spatial dimensions moving through space in time in what is known as the fourth dimension. But what of a fifth dimension? How would the existence of such a dimension be manifest, as anomalies? Inexplicable properties of certain compounds? Intelligence? Self replication of organizms? Is there a force that comes and goes into our reality, seemingly without explanation? This could exist primarily in a fifth dimension that occasionally overlaps into these four with which we have an intimate understanding. Certainly mathematicians can operate in and out of 'n' (any number of) dimensions. We can always push god out past this unknown frontier, into an unfathomable region where our chemistry hasn't reached. That is what we mean by the proverbial 'leap of faith.'

35) Modern day alchemy comes to life in the most sophisticated physics laboratories during the process of searching for theoretical sub-atomic particles. The search for the 'Higgs boson' is one such search that just recently may have been completed successfully. The popular scientific media has seized on the name 'God particle' for this genie hidden in nature, after a book by the same name authored by Leon Lederman. CERN, the European particle-physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, used the last month of their aging particle accelerator to try to create this hypothetical entity. The technique is as simple as a child wielding a sling shot to project a rock farther and faster than can be done by hand. The 17 mile ring collides beams of matter and antimatter at speeds near the speed of light in an attempt to answer the question: "Where does weight, or more precisely, mass, come from?"

The British physicist Peter Higgs, proposed that all of space is filled with an energy field that tugs on particles of matter, making some of them heavy and sluggish. (Is this the characteristic of the fifth dimension?) The Higgs field would create the diversity found in chemistry, where solid matter is heavy because it is rich in quarks while sunlight and radio waves have no mass at all. The particle -- Higgs boson -- should be heavy and unstable, and can be identified only after collisions that create short-lived, massive particles, which decay immediately to produce a recognizable residue. Discriminating the Higgs boson from other similar results is apparently the problem. They recorded four suspect events, but, like turning iron to gold, it may take a while before this trick can be replicated and turned to any practical advantage to mankind.

36) Chemistry is found in less sophisticated situations as well. "Latrines are merely one of the many places where we accidentally sow the seeds of wild plants that we eat. When we [our ancient ancestors] gather edible wild plants and bring them home, some spill en route or at our houses. Some fruit rots while still containing perfectly good seeds, and gets thrown out uneaten into the garbage. Parts of the fruit that we actually take into our mouths. . . are tiny and inevitably swallowed and defecated, but other seeds are large enough to be spat out. Thus, our spittoons and garbage dumps joined our latrines to form the first agricultural research laboratories. . . Eventually, when the first farmers began to sow seeds deliberately, they would inevitably sow those from the plants they had chosen. . . big berries have seeds likely to grow into bushes [or plants] yielding more big berries." (Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 1997)

This gives new meaning to the concept: "shit happens." The first agriculture identified began around 8,500 BC located in Southwest Asia with the cultivation of wheat, peas, olives, sheep and goats. The understanding of the chemistry involved followed after more than 10,000 years. In the twentieth century there has been an explosion of technology, but we are still the same people, poorly equipped to cope with the rapid pace of change in chemistry that confronts us. To a great extent, this explains the epidemic of drug abuse, both prescription and illegal.

On to Quintus Stele
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