Let me say a few words about cell biology. We have trillions of these little buggers in our body, each one about 5 times smaller than the smallest point you could make on a piece of paper with a sharp pencil. They are all talking to each other and they are all sharing a common purpose, homeostasis, and at any given moment any one of those human cells are perfectly capable of performing 2-3,000 different chemical reactions within the jelly-like cytoplasm of its interior and in the organelles floating around in there and in the nucleus inside its permeable sheath.
A cell functions much like a tiny nation or maybe it’s our nations that function like a living cell – having replicated that template in the world we live in. It has a cell membrane with molecular gates that permit passage of certain molecules in and out but don’t allow the passage of others – analogous to borders and immigration control. The nucleus is the capital, it houses the genetic code, the rules of the land, written on ribbons of nucleic acid and sends them out to the rest of the cell to tell them how things are to be done. It also functions as a maternity ward where new cells are born. In there the double helix spirals of DNA unfurl and unzip and create two separate but identical copies of itself rails of the DNA ladder. Proteins then zip them back together and voila a new DNA molecule, spell checked and fact checked by other mechanisms to make sure it’s accurate, but not too accurate, a certain amount of digression is needed for mutations and evolutionary change. That’s how the citizens adapt and evolve. Then there’s the mitochondria – they are like tiny power plants that manufacture energy for the cell to use. The energy comes in the form of a molecule called ATP which is distributed throughout the cell so it can do whatever it has to do and to cells nearby through the blood supply so they can do whatever they have to do -= somewhat like the electrical lines that criss cross our cities and give us the energy we need to run the blender and watch TV. Ribosomes float around in the cytoplasm and operate like factories translating the genetic information of the DNA into useful protein molecules. The proteins are responsible for much of the work that’s done in a cell like replicating DNA. Golgi bodies put the finishing touches on the proteins and lipids, customize them to suit their end purpose and package them up for delivery to their destination. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is like a interstate highway system that delivers them and vesicles are like the cars that drive on it transporting the manufactured products. They even deliver overseas. Inside the ER, ribosomes match up with amino acids that they need to build the proteins, kind of like a shopping mall. Then there’s lysosomes, an organelle that functions like the city garbage truck driving up and down the alleyways picking the detritus of our urban lifestyle; they grab worn out pieces of cell structure and dispose of them. Some cells have antenna-like objects on their surface to pick up chemical messages from other cells like the cell phone towers that dot our landscape.
All this is going on continuously and automatically, driven by the intelligence inside the cell. We are a collection of cells living a cellular life style within a larger cell – the planetary biosphere called planet earth which is itself part of the ‘solar system’ which itself is part of a spiraling galactic formation, which is itself one tiny cell in something we call the universe. That puts a human being somewhere in the middle of the scale between the universe and the atomic world that makes up the molecules of our cells. An interesting place to be. A room with a view and what a view.