Sunday, May 6, 2012

Big but Simple, Small but Complex, the paradoxes of PO-MO Science refutes central tenet of MODERNITY

   Modernity was birthed in the late 19th century ,when Darwinian Biology saw a definite, if meandering, directionality to progress, leading through random activity into self organization - onward to ever bigger and hence ever more "complex" beings .
  This metaphor was extended to all things : Big Government, Big Corporations, Big Unions ,Big Bridges, Big Dams, Big Battleships , ever onwards.
  Bigger was Better,Law of the Jungle, Might Makes Right: Darwin our God was definitely on the side of the Biggest Battalions.
  But quantum physics and molecular biology in the 1930s put a question mark on these certitudes.

     Or should have - if Science works like it claims it does.
 For example, the alchemists' claim of transmutation of  atoms turned out to be possible after all - the hundred plus elements were not just a given at the birth of the Universe.
   So some physicists in the 1930s were speculating that in the seconds after the Big Bang, its immense heat and pressure fused subatomic particles into ever bigger subatomic particles and ultimately produced the lightest element hydrogen and a few of its lightest cousins.
   What what could have given the truly tremendous energy and pressure needed, by quantum theory, to fuse the heaviest elements into being ?
   A mystery.
   But with the 1930s discovery of Super Novas, we now had a source for the immense energy needed.
   It came from explosions of the biggest discrete objects in the Universe .
   But there was a real paradox here : there is nothing bigger or more energetic than a Super Nova exploding, but all it could produce for all its labour was the tiny - and relatively simple - atom.
    Yes, the simple atom : For by the 1930s, the new sciences of Polymer Chemistry and Bio Chemistry were coming to the conclusion that true complexity lay in the giant biological-created molecules.
   These were a mixture of thousands of different atoms, but arranged in such complex three dimensional shapes that each enzyme or protein molecule to be an incredibly tiny but precise factory or robot.
   Ironically, some claimed that it was Life's smallest beings, the microbes, who designed and used these giant molecules the best.
   Martin Henry Dawson called this bacterial transmutation of biological molecules (like DNA) via HGT (horizontal gene transfers) "Transformation", but many others simply called it biological transmutation a la the alchemists and the elements .
    So now ,big Super Novas produced small and simple atoms , while tiny microbes produced big and complex molecules.
   But in fact, these discoveries made by Quantum Physics and Molecular Biology between 1890s to the 1930s seemed to hold
little 'real world' relevance to politicians and businessmen, until WWII  (Modernity's War) exposed Modernity' weaknesses.
   Martin Henry Dawson's friends, Floyd Odlum and Jackie Cochrane, were in turn close friends with the most influential advocate of air power in WWII : General Hap Arnold, US Army Air Force.
    Arnold felt that Carl Norden had the war-winner in his bombsight, so deadly accurate there would be no need to use old-fashioned infantrymen like Dawson.
   However, Newtonian Physics/ Norden Physics totally failed to get its promised bombs into the proverbial pickle barrel from 15,000 feet up.
 The military were forced to go back to the ancient method used by the armies of tens of thousands of years earlier : firing up of entire cities.
   (That and calling in those low tech/old fashioned infantrymen to once again close the deal.)
   The fire came from the atomic bomb with such force that aiming accurately was rendered irrelevant -- even a miss still wiped out the entire city.
   Suddenly, after August 1945, that long-haired Quantum-whatever physics stuff that had produced the a-bomb seemed to be something politicians, generals and newspaper editors would have to take seriously.     Newton - and Norden - would have to go to the museum.
    The revelation of Auschwitz's medical experiments in November 1945 had already made everyone question just what evil alley Galtonian Biology was leading humanity up.
    Dr Joseph Mengele's 'research' (via photographs and measures of people's external bodies) leading to crude carving and sewing up of people to make the perfect race suddenly seemed irredeemably old-fashioned.
   The future of genetics seemed to lie instead in tiny objects inside those bodies - lie inside the molecules of life.
   Dawson's former colleagues at the Rockefeller Institute might just hold the new key to biology - via a sudden interest in researching  Dawson's old DNA stuff.
   Not that any politician or businessmen actually said that - not for 50 more years.
    But the ambitious young at the leading edge of science sure did --- they moved into molecular biology from all branches of science after 1945, from physics and chemistry and geology as well  from zoology and botany.
  Daltonian Chemistry was in no better shape - its traditional method of choice - huge factory vats to heat up and heat down, under tremendous pressure, to create a few simple chemicals - also seemed suddenly irremediably old fashioned by 1945.
   A tiny - invisible - fungus factory, as advocated by Martin Henry Dawson, could gracefully produce the Life-saving penicillin at normal temperature and pressures while the huge chemical plants just spun their wheels, failing to produce any synthetic penicillin.
   The weak, as it turned out,  might inherit the universe after all, just as the Bible claimed many eons ago....

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