Chemistry & Biology of LIFE and the vital role of BIG 4 players
We are all made of matter, and it is a matter of fact. We are a part of this magical universe that is scientifically carved out of the elements of matter. The question then is what these matters are composed of that they matters so much to us, the way they do. We need to unravel the inside story. Indeed intriguing. All matters are made of substance called elements and each of these elements has their characteristic physical and chemical properties establishing their individual identity. The story beginnings…
The personalities of elements are the players.
It is the game of life astutely played by the players known as the atoms and molecules; these abide by the fundamental rules of physics and chemistry. Molecules are made of atoms. The interactions between these atoms within molecules in our cell is what makes our life possible. We have now entered the sanctum sanctorum. This need to carefully preserved and protected. And the moment there is an iota of disturbance in the degree and depth of engagement of these multifaceted elements, we become susceptible to varied diseases and wide disorders, and inviting trouble in our life.
The atoms in our body contain the story of the universe. A fascinating story though never looked beyond the written chapters of school book and the contours of exam. The plot of the story gets unceremoniously hibernated unless we are in the similar zone of scientific discovery. We get disconnected. It is the smallest unit of matter that retains the chemical properties of the element.
What does an atom look like?
The inside story.
The hidden characters.
The connection between the sub-plots.
It has two regions, one is the center known as the nucleus having the protons & neutrons and the other is the surrounding can be termed as the cloud having the electrons. The stability of the atom comes with the attraction of positively charged protons and the negatively charged electrons. Though the neutrons are neutral they play their vital part in performing the stability of the atom. The weight of such micro particle are measured in a unit of its own known as dalton. Interesting aspect to know is that electrons are merely 1/1800th of the weight of protons but both the protons and electrons are equally charged to maintain that stability of the element. This basic chemistry helps in better understanding the world of biology. The subject that describes one part of the story…
Let’s take any object and when we cut it, we are not slicing the atoms but we are separating the molecules, as the object is made up of molecules and atom being the smallest unit that cannot be further divided.
The cosmology in biology sounds bit intriguing.
Nevertheless, as such we cannot be defining life in such simple terms. Science has been able to establish the connection between the atoms in the human body on earth and to that of the planets in the far flung galaxy. The atoms of the elements in human body were born when the stars died some few billions years back. Without the scientific hat, it appears as a far fetched imagination, a litmus test to our imaginative prowess and we are instantly thrown into a tailspin the moment we try to keep counting the years from the origin of universe. It is only millions and billions, and the number keep shifting its goal post depending on who is seeing from which point of view. First set of elements seemingly appeared on this Universe after the event of Big Bang.
The mystery of the history of evolution is a treasure trove in this tiny piece of atom forming the molecules and organic compound making up the living organisms.
These four elements forms the bulk of our body structure, precisely put the figure stands as 96.2% – Hydrogen (65%), Oxygen (18.5%), Carbon (9.5%) & Nitrogen (3.2%) In fact every living organism is predominantly composed of these four fundamental elements.
The vibrancy of the biodiversity we see on this planet is a beautiful product of the artistic composition of these four elements…and we can truly experience the symphony of life through the state of harmony within these elements.
Biology is actually chemistry.
These are the vital elements in our body and what do they really do inside the body structure and how simply the body does embody these complex compounds. They form the building blocks that make life possible.
Carbon is said to be synonymous with life, the basic unit of organic molecule. Life would not be possible on earth without this very carbon element. Every single organic molecule in our body contains carbon. The property that makes it stands out in the positioning statement. It can form bond with itself. It has four stable bonds and that helps it to form variety of molecules and long complex compounds, the building blocks of living organism. Carbohydrates to proteins all contain carbon. Also, the carbon bonds can be broken with much lesser energy allowing a dynamic organic chemistry in our cell. Hydrogen’s high level of electro-negativity facilitates because of which it easily bonds with carbon. Hydrogen is also found in every single organic molecule in our body. Oxygen mainly found bound to hydrogen. It combines well with carbon and the bondage that oxygen has with hydrogen forms the water, the elixir of life. Nitrogen is important because it is found in amino acids that make up proteins and nucleic acid that makes up DNA are so essential to the critical functioning of human cell.
Carbon is recycled between atmospheres to plants to animals to human beings on this planet. In other planets not yet unearthed. This natural system is what we know as the carbon cycle. Plant uses carbon dioxide and water during the process of photosynthesis, and produces oxygen and glucose, and the later gives the plant the needed energy. Plants are consumed by animals and human beings. During this process the carbon changes its form to carbohydrates. The carbohydrates are used during the process of respiration wherein the oxygen and glucose are converted into carbon dioxide, water and energy. The process of combustion i.e. the burning of fossil fuels and the process of decomposition i.e. breaking of dead organic matters releases the locked up carbon dioxide in earth crust into the earth atmosphere.
Human activities keep recklessly intervening with nature and disrupting the natural carbon cycle affecting the functioning of our planet.
Chemistry is actually is about physics.
There is another side to this story of elements that is the geology of these elements beside the biology. Elements are the storehouse of energy. Matters and Energy are the twos side of the same coin. Energy remains the same, the elementary form keep changing. The massive requirements of energy are for our large industrial production houses that are madly multiplying. The invasion of industrialization. These factories are the real energy guzzlers, the primary polluters. Fossil Fuels are sources of energy that are formed out of the remains of living organism buried millions of years back. Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons comprises of carbon and hydrogen, and few other smaller elements. Different fuels have different set of ratios and a matter of fact that coal is nearly composed of only carbons. A fossil fuel is a fuel that is formed by natural processes. These fossil fuels are formed out of the burning of matters like wood to coal to oil to gas to generate the energy. All these energy ultimately comes from the solar energy.
“Coals are pecked in our bedrock.”
“Oils are decked in the bedrock of sea.”
“These get drilled or mined.”
And then the process of refinement of these fossil fuels into energy forms like electricity for rampant industrial usage. There are these residues. Burning these carbon fuels produces large amount of carbon dioxide and the culprit behind the climate change in the negative direction. All these energy sources are non-renewable in nature and we are on the downhill, the depletion of this basket of energies is on an accelerated pace and if we don’t have the alternatives in place very soon…life will be surreptitiously sucked out of this planet. It will be tragic end of the human story and these elements as characters can do nothing in extending the plot. The plot now is clearly mad-made and the protagonist can play in a rightful manner provided the person in control is fully conscious of the dire consequences and driver of the vehicle of life quickly navigates it back on the right path.
This is an elementary lesson of life but we are too busy in building the industrial houses oblivious of the massive collapse imminently visible in the natural habitats of this lush green and blue planet.
According to scientists 25 elements are essential to life but these 4 lead the pack of those known 92 elements that occur naturally. These do so in their body of composition i.e. shoulder and above the rest. It is quite natural to ask which element was first to have got discovered, though not exactly known but two such elements that contest for the top position are the elements of carbon and the copper. Not to undermine the vital role played by some of these smaller elements. For instance take the case of iron a tiny percentage in hemoglobin and the substance responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. Thinking of oxygen without iron becomes redundant once we know the functioning. The tiny support of these smaller elements is massive on the bigger elements and influence is that of titanic in nature. One need to remember that scientific knowledge is not always absolute and it has been observed that things changes with newer findings. It is the eternal quest and it shall remain so till the universe exists and human co-exists.
These four elements account for 96% of human body and are part of the basic structure of all biochemical molecules. The knowledge of chemistry of living organisms is known as biochemistry. In other words, the biological functioning of human body is governed by the chemical process involving compounds of these elements.
All life form is made of small compartments known as cells. No matter what type of living creature, from a single cell creature like bacteria to billions of cell creature like human being every cell of these creatures are made of atoms of different elements. Each of these big four elements play their vital part and the impact is what we see as the thriving life forms vying for their space on their planet earth. Had the other planets had this elements and the balance of composition in place, life would have already moved into other galaxies and planets in this infinite space of universe.
Elements make up everything around us…
Nihar R Pradhan