Gaia the Chemist

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Quotes of the Day

Legs, Land Eggs, Wings and Flowering Things
From quiet forests... a glorious cacophony of life!

― SolSeed Sabbath Ritual for the Diversitas season

“Death is not the opposite of life but an innate part of it. By living our lives, we nurture death.”

― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Contemplation for the Day

Let us imagine

You and Your Elephant are walking through a mall. You have a sinus headache and are looking for a Pharmacy where you can get something to ease your pain.

The store to your right is called, the Geologist and it has on display beautiful pieces of stone. The store is divided into three sections, igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. At the back of the sedimentary section is a counter with a sign which reads 'Fossilization while You Weight' and it annoys you that they used the wrong spelling of 'Weight'. But then you see the line of animals waiting in line and the one behind the counter that is lying down on a slab of sedimentary rock while Terra lifts a complimentary slab of rock up over the creature into what looks like a hydraulic press.

Your Elephant reaches out with it's trunk and turns your head away before Terra activates the press.

Ahead you see a fitness studio called 'Let's Get Physical'. The fitness instructors are old men with white flowing beards and they have lightning bolts on their white uniforms. Like most fitness studio's this place has a lot of treadmills. But these ones are very long and are being used by many different species of animal. You watch as a zebra walks at the front of a treadmill. The treadmill surface is grassy, and the zebra is nibbling the grass as it walks forward slowly.

Then suddenly one of the fitness instructors opens a door and a lion appears and jumps on the back of the treadmill and starts running forward toward the zebra. The zebra starts running and instantly the treadmill speeds up keeping the zebra in one place and slowing the lion's progress up the treadmill toward its prey.

The zebra and the treadmill keep speeding up and the lion's progress up the treadmill slows yet it looks like it won't be enough. It looks like before the treadmill speeds up enough to drive the lion backwards; the lion will catch the zebra.

Again, your elephant turns your head away; you don't want to see what happens when the lion reaches the zebra.

You see down a side hall a store with the words, 'The Chemist' above it. You know that the British call Pharmacies, Chemists, so you turn that way hoping to find a remedy for you sore head.

There is a long line of organisms from every kingdom waiting in front of the 'Chemist's' counter. You and your elephant don't look at all out of place as you join the back of the queue. As the line advances and winds around the store, the actual pharmacist comes into view. It is Gaia, wearing a white lab coat and protective eye glasses. Behind her a forest of interconnected chemical glass wear stands, its many coloured liquids bubbling in flasks, flowing along tubes, condensing in condensers, titrating in burettes and distilling in stills. The colours are mostly browns and greys, but some unappealing greens are also visible.

Gaia examines the next creature in line, a club moss, and then fills a syringe at from one of the flasks in the glassware forest and injects the club moss with the syringe. The club moss immediately crumbles into dust and a stiff breeze arises and blows the dust out of sight into a back room. Gaia looks disappointed. Now that the club moss is gone you can see beside her a small sign that says, 'Random Protein Trials; Sign up Today'.

The next organism steps forward, a queen ant. Gaia fills a new syringe and injects the tiny ant. The ant's antennae grow slightly longer but nothing more. It wanders away and again Gaia looks disappointed.

The next organism steps forward, a mushroom with red dots. Again, Gaia fills a syringe and injects the mushroom. The red dots sprout little golden drops of liquid which begin dripping messily off the mushroom. Gaia looks disappointed again but then a butterfly jumps the queue flying from near the back directly up to the mushroom where it lands and begins lapping up the golden liquid. Then the butterfly drops dead and falls on the floor beside the mushroom. The fungus extends several mycelia and devours the butterfly and then wanders away. Gaia claps her hands in delight.

And so, the line advances for hours, perhaps days, it feels like years or decades perhaps even eons. You would leave but you are fascinated with how each creature is affected by its injection. Alarmingly most of the creatures die instantly when injected. A large number see no change at all, or some minor change that hardly seems important. But every so often there is a change that is amazing. A reptile gets big spiky scales that make it look like a porcupine. A squirrel gains a gliding membrane between its front feet and back feet. A tree grows taller. A succulent plant gains large bulbous water storage galls. A bacterium learns to digest oil. An amoeba learns to bypass the immune system of a shark.

Before you realize it, you reach the head of the line and it is your turn. Gaia fills a syringe and turns to you. Your elephant grabs you and pulls you back. You know what will likely happen if she injects you. Most of the creatures that you have seen injected have died instantly. "Gaia", you say, "I don't want to be injected with whatever drug you’re a trying out. I just want a cure for my headache."

"Little one," Gaia says, "This injection might help."

"Really?" you say doubtfully, "What is this protein you are testing today?"

Gaia laughs, "I am testing many different proteins. It is a "random" protein trial. I give each creature a different random protein to see what will happen."

"That doesn't sound very safe, Gaia." you say backing away from her a little more. "What makes you think that this protein will cure my headache?"

Gaia laughs again, "I don't think, Little One, that is your job."

You laugh despite yourself, "So if I let you inject me with that anything could happen."

"Yes, Little One." Gaia smiles and beckons your forward, "and 'anything' includes curing your headache."

"This is crazy Gaia," you say most definitely not stepping forward, "Why would you work this way?"

Gaia looks hurt, "Little One, this is how I have always worked. It is how I have brought all Life into existence. A random mutation arises in a creature's DNA and I make a new protein from it and see what comes of it. It is the sacred process by which you came about. You can't really mean to say that I should stop."

"It is true that I wouldn't want evolution to stop." you muse, "Evolution is sacred. It is the path to ever growing possibilities. It is the basis of diversity."

"Yes, little one,” Gaia nods approvingly, "And the diversity of proteins inside each creature is the basis of the macroscopic diversity you see. The basis of biology is complex organic chemistry."

You pause, "I just don't want to die taking part. Can you guarantee that your experiment won't result in my death?"

Gaia shakes her head sadly, "No Little One, there are no guarantees in Life. But, I will add a little more metaphorium to your injection. That should protect you against the worst effects."

Called by the beauty of Gaia's eyes, your elephant has nudged you forward without thinking. After adding metaphorium to your injection Gaia reaches out and pricks your arm with the syringe. You feel the new protein spread through your body. Your head ache goes away! But then so to do your arms and legs ... and torso ... and head. They all become dust and blow away on a breeze.

The metaphorium carries you back to the here and now.

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