Sunday, April 15, 2012

If only SIR ISSAC NEWTON had been a BIOLOGIST...

Michael Marshall
If only  NEWTON had been a full time scientist .

Rather than being a fulltime NEW AGER and just a part time scientist.

I'll grant one to the camp of the DENIERS, I do believe that there was a concerted effort (yes, a conspiracy of a sort) among generations untold of eminent scientists, to studiously ignore exploring too much about the life of their most famous scientist.

 An effort centred among the members of Britain's famous ROYAL SOCIETY.

Today, shorn of his contributions to physics and math, Newton is liable to come across as a total nutbar and fruitcake.

But he was not untypical of many earlier - and even - current eminent scientists.

Still, this is a post about his useful work in science - the solving of two-body problems.

Briefly, Newton came up with a way to successfully predict (albeit only roughly accurately) the effect on the motions of two objects of their mutual gravitational attraction to each other.

Typically - and I say crucially - the two bodies are very unequal in size (mass, actually).

Sun and Earth ; Earth and Moon.

It replicates many unequal relationships in human society and  flattered the bigger body in those relationships as merely reflecting a fact of nature, a LAW of Nature, for God's Sake !

Man and wife, parent and child, boss and servant, master and slave, white man and black man, A1 people versus 4F people.

On and on.

Oh yes, one more.

In biology, we find Newton's earth and moon replicated in the biologists' naft idea of biological commensality.

"Two-bodied commensality".

The bigger body, Man, has a meal.

Uninvited at Man's table, his physical body, is some tiny body - the commensal microbe.

They eat some of Man's food, but do not harm him ( disease) or help him (generating vitally needed vitamins for human survival inside Man's intestines).

It is a nice simple - stupidly simple -flatteringly untrue image.

In fact, in the real world, Life is run on a infinitely complex three-bodied model - the equation of which neither Newton nor anyone else ever solved perfectly, or even solved imperfectly for very long.

For Man, by mass and number, is in turn but a tiny commensal upon the entire world population of microbes who keep us fed with oxygen and vegetation/meat foods.

Without other life to feed us, we would starve because neither our current genes nor our current science allows us to breath and eat in a world of methane and sulfur -- unlike some of the microbes.

Now in a real world three-bodied problem, the three bodies would all interact with each other - and we definitely do interact with the local microbes upon us and with all the microbes living on the globe  around us.

Our commensals sometimes do kill us and sometimes do help us ---indirectly.

We push them into it, by consuming antibiotics.

Some antibiotics kill off the commensals'  competitors - so they in turn can move into us and cause disease.

Or we kill off our harmless commensals with our antibiotics and their replacements are not harmless but pathogens - we thus learn the harmless- useless- commensal actually indirectly helped us by keeping the deadly alternatives off our skin and out of our throats.

We also pump trillions times trillions of microbe-sized fatal doses of
fatal antibiotics into the general environment every year ; we raise the temperature of the air and the land and the water via our greenhouse gases and thus by our actions we kill some and promote others among the world's microbes.

Just between these three bodies,calculating the interactions would
still boggle Newton's brain.

Now 'three-bodied' is just a scientific cum classroom metaphor.

 Because really life and reality is a many-bodied problem: a many,many,many-bodied problem.

Getting it exactly right - even once - probably boggled even God's mind.....

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