Friday, 29 May 2015

Life and the Lifeless

Date: 24/12/14
Time: 4:15 PM
Location: Kolkata, India

                           Recently, I've been thinking a lot about the big picture and things related to life. I remember, in a previous letter, I mentioned how we are so much similar to the heavenly bodies and the universe...but lately, another question disturbs me. I myself think its quite irrational, but still I repeatedly raise this question as I find no relevant answer. The question is, why we call ourselves the living? The answer seems quite obvious at first but the more I thought about it, the more confused I got. Finally, I decided to make a separate list of properties for the living and the non-living objects.

                         The first differentiating property which came to my mind was intelligence, but soon I had to rule that out considering the primitive species like bacteria and algae which lasted for millions of years without the slightest hint of intelligence. Furthermore, with the aid of technology, we can and have created robots and devices with superb intelligence. Sometimes, humans have even created devices with a higher intelligence level than most living organisms...but still these robots and devices are deemed non-living. 

                          Then, I thought of the ability to intake matter from the surroundings, use it and then give it back. However, this characteristic feature was also ruled out. For instance, if we take the sun into account, or any other star, at the beginning of it's 'life', it takes in a lot of matter from space due to its own gravity, goes through some reactions (fusion of H atoms to form He and maybe more reactions), and then finally results in heat, energy and light (and He). Eventually, even the sun 'dies' like all other living creatures, but again, we never say that the sun is a living creature. 

                          Then the last thing which perhaps differentiates life from the lifeless can be the ability to reproduce, evolve and carry information. The ability to duplicate DNA and produce another being of the same kind is exclusive in the living (or is it?). If we think of a binary system of stars, it is obvious that it is confronted with many possibilities. One of these possibilities is the formation of a 'baby star'. Well, this is a very rare event and has only come into view through recent studies (a new study predicts such an event in a binary system located in the constellation Cetus). When two stars are nearing death, their usable fuel (H) tank is almost empty. However, after collision, temperatures generated are high enough to kick start the reactions again and thus, use up the remaining fuel which would have been of no use without a high temperature. Thus, a new star is born which is blessed with a few more years of life. The formation of super galaxies from two different galaxies can be an example as well.

                          Also, when galaxies collide, lots of new stars are formed. So, we can imagine the galaxies to be (sort of) colonies for the stars and occasionally, these colonies participate in marriage ceremonies with other galaxies and result in new stars! Also, every object in the universe carry information like the DNA in our cells. Otherwise, how can a star look just like other stars and the asteroids look just like other asteroids?! Every object contains in itself, or receives from some outer source the information which decides how it must look and act. Information is organised data and data is all about the tiniest details. Coming to the evolution part, the truth is, the lifeless has evolved to be the living. Life has found a way.

                        Now doesn't all of it seem to fit into a well defined pattern?...and to be completely honest, the concept of 'baby star' came to me when I followed this logical pattern...and when I googled it, voila! it did exist! (even though it has been observed very rarely and was just predicted in some cases). 

                       Yesterday, I was watching a theoretical video. It didn't speak about the living or the non-living, but it was very close to the subject. It basically explained that all human beings are forgeries of a set of instructions formed by molecular structures just like the forgery of a painting or a sculpture. If we go back 50 generations behind this present one, it will be enough to link all the humans as cousins. If we go back even further, we can easily link ourselves to the animals, and if we are willing to go back a bit more, we'll see that we can link ourselves to the trees and rocks too! This was what the video talked about. Therefore, we are copies and duplicates of what was there in the past, and as forgeries can be detected as forgeries due to the presence of the minimal differences, it were these differences which over time, made us so different from our cousins. 

                       All of us are just different combinations of molecules and atoms. The inanimate objects eat, breathe, grow, reproduce and evolve, even though their diet, growth and birth patterns are different...So is life really different from something without life?...and if it is, then why? So the next time you put on your clothes to get some coffee with your friends, just think about it, are you wearing and drinking an ancient version of yourself?


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For baby star article Click here

Monday, 25 May 2015

The Idea of 'God'

Date: 6/12/14
Time: 1:15 PM
Location: Kolkata, India

                                      Day before yesterday, my friends and I were having a discussion on God and the ultimate power. It turned out to be a very interesting conversation and I got to know a lot of opinions regarding this power. Few were really staunch believers of God being present in idols  (even though they possess a very scientific and logical mind)...and there were a few who had ideas closer to mine. For instance, one of them believed in a power which transcends all our imaginations and another one never really believed in 'God' but confessed a respect for some higher power.

                                     A theory can be the self-induced idea of God (it's an old theory probably). This very idea keeps the conscious mind in check subconsciously. Another theory can be that the Universe is so vast and mysterious that those with the slightest knowledge about it's expanse, tend to fear as well as respect the power an infinite object can hold. We always tend to think that there must be something beyond the circumference of the observable universe, and if that beyond is reached, there must be something even beyond that...but the ultimate fact is, our finite brain cannot fit the infinite universe inside it. There will always be something beyond our reach and in order to satisfy our hungry minds, we name this 'beyond' appropriately and shape it into a perceivable and imaginable being.

                                    Well, coming back to 'God', I think and believe that God is the ultimate source of all the chemical and physical phenomenon which can exist. The energy which runs in our veins, which brushes against our face when we open the window, which makes us feel nothing in an empty room...all of it constitutes the ultimate power which we know by the name of 'God'. So if God just took rest on the 7th day, we would all have vanished into thin air. Actually, even thin air would have vanished! The presence of God is very important and that too in every aspect of life..and the best part is that God willingly agrees to be present. If we just try for once not to think of God as a human figure or idol, perhaps we'll be able to perceive God as a feeling and worship that feeling (instead of lighting incense sticks and polluting God's own creation.).

                                    Energy constitutes everything. Its energy which is absorbed and released by the living during every passing moment...and that's the ingredient which runs our whole being. As Einstein figured out years ago, energy and mass are synonymous (he can be wrong of course as no theory or result can be absolute). This means that everything that's there and ever will be is energy. Every object has some amount of internal energy, which if not there, the object will not exist in the first place. This makes energy one of the most magical and mysterious elements in the Universe.

                                   According to another well known scientist, Stephen Hawking, the concept of 'God' (the generalized concept) does not exist. He is very open about this idea and clearly does not believe in a power which controls everything from our destiny to the fate of the objects moving in space. However, as no theory is absolute, no one can really be sure about the validity of the idea.

                                   Given all the scientific details and explanation about the creation - the big bang, some people still can't change the concept of God that has been implanted in them from the very early stages of their lives, and its worse than a sin to force them to change their minds if they aren't willing to. Freedom of thought and belief cannot be forfeited under any circumstances. Its a right which cannot be defined or guarded by constitutions but must be functional at all times.

                                  I have been through many conflicts regarding the subject of 'God' (discussions and healthy debates often act as food for the mind) where many have vehemently opposed my views and have tried to force their's on me, and I'll admit that I have been guilty of doing the same. However, few of their questions really intrigued me. When in order to prove my point, I told them about the tiny ball of huge density which resulted in everything, they questioned me - Who created that tiny ball? From where did it come? Who created the first particle that ever existed?...and lots of other rhetorical questions.

                                  Isn't it an irony, that both the scientific and unscientific men of today have the same questions to ask? The only difference is that, these unscientific men (sort of) already know the answers. Perhaps their answer is the ultimate truth, or maybe just an assumption to satisfy the curious and hungry mind with an answer which the subconscious knows is far away from the present point in time and space.


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Saturday, 23 May 2015

The Significance of Life

Date: 10/11/14
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Kolkata, India

                              Recently there's this interesting, but very simple realization that has dawned on me. Its the simple fact that there's so much in this world and beyond. Our minds are packed with interests, fascinations, knowledge and passion which makes this universe way better when viewed from the perspective of the living. This universe only lets us have a little peek into its vast glory through an infinite layer of dark matter, which of course makes it a very difficult place to observe. Whatever we know is only a meager percentage of the ultimate knowledge. Its hard to get hold of every truth and every fact here. Having that little bit of information however, creates the obvious belief in the miracle called life. A miracle which has persisted for years.

                              From recent studies and researches, people (most people) have come to state that perhaps, we are the only form of intelligent life in the whole universe (possibly). A part of me wants to believe it and a part doesn't. When I consider the complexity of life and the living, it seems that we are a very unique combination of events that have very rare chances of occurring in the same sequence again. However, when I take into account the infinite reaches of the universe, life doesn't seem that impossible.

                             When the mind starts going beyond everything, beyond every nation, every continent, every planet and every galaxy, a state of timelessness dawns on it. Sure, its only an imaginary state, but it also serves the purpose of realization. Being in that position, a question automatically hits the mind. Its the question of significance. What is life? Why is life required at all? At that moment life just seems like a bundle of chemical reactions going on in a speck of dust (the planet)...and then perhaps, we realize the fact that all of us are just bundle of reactions governed by protons, electrons and neutrons (and lots of other nuclear stuff).

                             We are not much different from an asteroid, a star or even a galaxy. We are there just like the sun is there in the milky way and the earth is there in the solar system. We are just another combination of elements, moving around as per the atoms and molecules decree. Carl Sagan once believed that we are in fact a minuscule version of the universe and through us, we can understand the universe ("We are a way for the cosmos to know itself").

                           Coming to our significance, its the same as that of a star, a galaxy or the whole universe. We are here because we are here and that's all. No fancy reason, no fancy explanation. "I am because I exist, I exist because I am.". All of us and all of the heavenly objects are generated at one point of space and time and destroyed at another after carrying out a bunch of chemical and physical activities, which make the differences between objects very vague...the only difference can be that we are possibly rarer than the stars and thus, more precious. So, all those places in the universe which are way beyond our reach, can be reached through our very own minds and that's a terrific show of the magician called Miracle, which is of course another name for Life.


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Friday, 22 May 2015

A Crazy Theory!

Date: 10/11/14 
Time:9:30 AM
Location: Kolkata, India

                             Sometimes this new theory just keeps crossing the roads of my mind instead of the numerous red lights from the tasks of the daily life. But today, I just couldn't stop myself from putting it down on paper, coz' this idea fascinates me so much that I can spend a billion years lingering on this topic.

                             Well, presently I am studying computer science as a 5th subject and its all about programs and logic. One day while showering (I make all the important decisions under the shower) a theory of programs suddenly popped in my mind. I thought of considering the world as an operating system(OS). Then all of us (the living objects) will be the various programs created in order to achieve their respective goals. Well, in that case, according to the present world scenario, it seems that there are already too many programs generated for fulfilling the same purpose (more or less). Moreover, what's more interesting is, these programs are self generating, which means these programs generate programs of their own kind so that the purpose of fulfilling the task is carried on even after degradation of the mother program or after its incompatibility with the modern versions of the OS. 

                             Now, this is not the problem but the root of the problem basically. This problem has persisted for a very long time and repeatedly the OS has discovered ways to debug the source codes and programs. The problem actually is the multiple generation of the same sort of programs which not only depletes memory space but also complicates the process of fulfilling the task. Now this is where the programmer comes in and works along with the OS (the Universe and World) to generate the 'suicidal programs'. I feel this is the most twisty and fascinating part of the whole theory. These programs come in various versions ranging from minor to major. Minor suicidal programs like fires, animal attacks and accidents have been generated repeatedly over time and they have caused deletion of the excessive programs. Then comes the major versions which are way more terrifying, ranging from earthquakes and volcanoes to mass terminations and world wars. Even the modern version of the OS has been through much. Mass murderers and dictators like Stalin, Hitler, Genghis Khan and many others have caused widespread atrocities. World Wars I and II have witnessed massive exterminating procedures. These massive deletions have always been a very important part of the OS because they stabilize the OS. There's a pattern in all these deletions which makes it quite 'natural'. Old programs must be deleted in order to make place for the new and more efficient programs. 

                           Also, another interesting version of these programs is the version which has developed around the idea of self destruction. These programs do not exist as individual programs but are very normal programs. The only difference is that they have a code snippet inserted in them. These codes generate the idea of self destruction. Here, the term 'self-destruction' not only refers to destruction of self but also destruction of one's own kind. Examples can be dictators like those mentioned above and general suicide cases.

                          We have perceived these suicidal programs with the harshest perception possible, ignorant of the fact that these programs were intended to fulfill such atrocious tasks, but we must always know that the evil keeps the good in check and prevents it from turning into evil. Only the evil can protect the good. In spite of the destruction and violence, these programs are absolutely necessary in order to evade the problem of the ever increasing programs in the limited space of the OS. The only problem however, which can arise out of this horrible solution is the complete destruction of all programs. If the suicidal programs generated by the OS and the programmer goes out of control or gets a bug from some unidentifiable source, and if the regeneration programs are not in good numbers, we can undergo a process of extinction like many other earthly species from varying periods of time. 

                            What I see, in this present world, is yet another crisis, with increasing population, infinite demands and low supplies. The problem is that we don't believe that something can happen until something already happens. Maybe this time the new version of the suicidal programs will be the nuclear wars with all possibilities of extinction of every single being that could ever think or speak.

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