TED talks declined from ‘must-see-every-single-one’ to less interesting than liveleak.com, even from a science and technology perspective - seen a chicken plugger? Superfast slot cars? Bubble Vortices anybody? So it is worthwhile to point out interesting TED talks whenever one happens to still come along. Drew Berry’s Animations of unseeable biology, though the first half is drivel, makes up for it in the second.

These kinds of visualizations make evolution and how we as humans fit in into the whole of the cosmos much better understood. Well, of course, you may as well see what can only be the creation of some divine ghost, but when employing brain in more rational ways, it becomes clear that the microscopic world is indeed an evolved world by itself.

Look at those little transport molecules walking along the microtubules – yes they evolved much like we evolved and they walk along in their vast city. Do they know anything about what that factory is from our viewpoint? They cannot, much like we are cognitively closed to the perception of the social systems that contain us.

Most important is perhaps to ponder the time scales. Look at those dividing and multiplying DNA strands. 50 nucleotides per second in humans, 500 in E. coli, but every single addition of a nucleotide is a largely random process that takes a long time in the micro world:

E. coli multiplying.

A nucleotide comes along, it does not fit, some water goes in its place, some protein wraps around, it wiggles there for some time, it moves away, water again, some other nucleotide perhaps, it binds, but it is the wrong one, so the molecular apparatus around the DNA at the replication site removes it again (in something that by itself is a process that takes some time). Now some protein that has nothing to do with replication is in the way again, …, and finally after a long hard day at work for these molecules, the correct nucleotide comes along and hits the spot, oh wait, with its wrong end though and – noooooo – drifts away again, and then there is water in its spot, and …, finally after a week the correct nucleotide sits in that place and is stable enough that it is less likely removed, but – oh my – some molecule bumps into the site and the thing is removed just like the wrong nucleotide last week - what a month.

All this 50 times a second inside of you right now (and of course in gazillion different places at once)! You get the message about what you are? You are a "universe". Evolution happens not just over millions of years, but over what is relative to us multiple life-times of the universe. Do not believe it? Well calculate it yourself. Take the stability of orbits as a scale bar if you like: Earth around sun versus electron around atom, or take the oscillation frequency of so called unstable nuclei, which are actually much more stable than the solar system.

Similar calculations show that even exponential cosmic inflation, that amazing popping up into existence of the observable universe in a fraction of a second, is a slow and not at all mysterious process from a microcosm perspective; as I wrote before in 100 Million Times Slower than Light: The Lameness of Cosmic Inflation, “inflation constitutes the most boring case of watching paint dry”.

“The relevant time in fundamental space-time processes is the Planck time …109 human heartbeats are equivalent to about 10 to 100 years. Not exactly bunny speed. And do not forget, we could have assumed Δt much longer, and then 100 years would turn into many times the age of the universe.” from Painfully Slow Inflation

Yes, it is all mind-boggling, but if you look at any of these issues on the appropriate scales, none of it needs the holy spirit.


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