Sometimes I think,
she says with a wink,
I’m stupid and old
if the truth be told.
Cuz it’s hard to remember
the last time I was young,
she says cheek in tongue
“This is what a group of researchers from the University of Kansas found after taking a close look at some extinct as well as living species . . . analyzing the physiology and evolution of as many as 299 species of aquatic mollusks — including present-day snails and slugs — over last five million years.”
“They delved into the occurrences and extinction of different species over the said period as well as their respective metabolic rates or the amount of energy each of the creature in question needed for survival.”
“Much to everyone’s surprise, the findings of the work revealed that metabolic rates make a reliable factor for predicting the likelihood of extinction of a certain animal species or community of species.”
“We found a difference for mollusk species that have gone extinct over the past 5 million years and ones that are still around today. Those that have gone extinct tend to have higher metabolic rates than those that are still living . . . those that have lower energy maintenance requirements seem more likely to survive than those organisms with higher metabolic rates.”*
*Luke Strotz, lead author of the study
**co-author Bruce Lieberman
“Astrophysicist Karel Schrijver, a senior fellow at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, and his wife, Iris Schrijver, professor of pathology at Stanford University, have joined the dots in a new book, Living With the Stars: How the Human Body Is Connected to the Life Cycles of the Earth, the Planets, and the Stars.”
“Talking from their home in Palo Alto, California, they explain how everything in us originated in cosmic explosions billions of years ago, how our bodies are in a constant state of decay and regeneration, and why singer Joni Mitchell was right.”
Iris: “Was she ever! Everything we are and everything in the universe and on Earth originated from stardust, and it continually floats through us even today. It directly connects us to the universe, rebuilding our bodies over and again over our lifetimes.”
Karel: “When the universe started, there was just hydrogen and a little helium and very little of anything else. Helium is not in our bodies. Hydrogen is, but that’s not the bulk of our weight. Stars are like nuclear reactors. They take a fuel and convert it to something else. Hydrogen is formed into helium, and helium is built into carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, iron and sulfur—everything we’re made of. When stars get to the end of their lives, they swell up and fall together again, throwing off their outer layers. If a star is heavy enough, it will explode in a supernova.”
“So most of the material that we’re made of comes out of dying stars, or stars that died in explosions. And those stellar explosions continue. We have stuff in us as old as the universe, and then some stuff that landed here maybe only a hundred years ago. And all of that mixes in our bodies.”
“Iris: I’m a physician specializing in genetics and pathology. Pathologists are the medical specialists who diagnose diseases and their causes. We also study the responses of the body to such diseases and to the treatment given. I do this at the level of the DNA, so at Stanford University I direct the diagnostic molecular pathology laboratory. I also provide patient care by diagnosing inherited diseases and also cancers, and by following therapy responses in those cancer patients based on changes that we can detect in their DNA.”
“Our book is based on many conversations that Karel and I had, in which we talked to each other about topics from our daily professional lives. Those areas are quite different. I look at the code of life. He’s an astrophysicist who explores the secrets of the stars. But the more we followed up on our questions to each other, the more we discovered our fields have a lot more connections than we thought possible.”
Karel:” I’m an astrophysicist. Astrophysicists specialize in all sorts of things, from dark matter to galaxies. I picked stars because they fascinated me. But no matter how many stars you look at, you can never see any detail. They’re all tiny points in the sky.”
“So I turned my attention to the sun, which is the only star where we can see what happens all over the universe. At some point NASA asked me to lead a summer school for beginning researchers to try to create materials to understand the things that go all the way from the sun to the Earth. I learned so many things about these connections I started to tell Iris. At some point I thought: This could be an interesting story, and it dawned on us that together we go all the way, as she said, from the smallest to the largest. And we have great fun doing this together.”
Iris: “Most people don’t even think of the skin as an organ. In fact, it’s our largest one. To keep alive, our cells have to divide and grow. We’re aware of that because we see children grow. But cells also age and eventually die, and the skin is a great example of this.”
“It’s something that touches everything around us. It’s also very exposed to damage and needs to constantly regenerate. It weighs around eight pounds [four kilograms] and is composed of several layers. These layers age quickly, especially the outer layer, the dermis. The cells there are replaced roughly every month or two. That means we lose approximately 30,000 cells every minute throughout our lives, and our entire external surface layer is replaced about once a year.”
Iris: “Every tissue recreates itself, but they all do it at a different rate. We know through carbon dating that cells in the adult human body have an average age of seven to ten years. That’s far less than the age of the average human, but there are remarkable differences in these ages. Some cells literally exist for a few days. Those are the ones that touch the surface. The skin is a great example, but also the surfaces of our lungs and the digestive tract. The muscle cells of the heart, an organ we consider to be very permanent, typically continue to function for more than a decade. But if you look at a person who’s 50, about half of their heart cells will have been replaced.”
“Our bodies are never static. We’re dynamic beings, and we have to be dynamic to remain alive. This is not just true for us humans. It’s true for all living things.”
Karel: “When the solar system formed, it started to freeze gas into ice and dust particles. They would grow and grow by colliding. Eventually gravity pulled them together to form planets. The planets are like big vacuum cleaners, sucking in everything around them. But they didn’t complete the job. There’s still an awful lot of dust floating around.”
“When we say that as an astronomer, we can mean anything from objects weighing micrograms, which you wouldn’t even see unless you had a microscope, to things that weigh many tons, like comets. All that stuff is still there, being pulled around by the gravity of the planets and the sun. The Earth can’t avoid running into this debris, so that dust falls onto the Earth all the time and has from the very beginning. It’s why the planet was made in the first place. Nowadays, you don’t even notice it. But eventually all that stuff, which contains oxygen and carbon, iron, nickel, and all the other elements, finds its way into our bodies.”
“When a really big piece of dust, like a giant comet or asteroid, falls onto the Earth, you get a massive explosion, which is one of the reasons we believe the dinosaurs became extinct some 70 million years ago. That fortunately doesn’t happen very often. But things fall out of the sky all the time. [Laughs]”
Karel: “Whatever you mention, its history began in outer space. Take salt. What we usually mean by salt is kitchen salt. It has two chemicals, sodium and chloride. Where did they come from? They were formed inside stars that exploded billions of years ago and at some point found their way onto the Earth. Stellar explosions are still going on today in the galaxy, so some of the chlorine we’re eating in salt was made only recently.”
Iris: “Absolutely. There are healthy processes, such as growth, for which we need cell division. Then there are processes when things go wrong. We age because we lose the balance between cell deaths and regeneration. That’s what we see in the mirror when we age over time. That’s also what we see when diseases develop, such as cancers. Cancer is basically a mistake in the DNA, and because of that the whole system can be derailed. Aging and cancer are actually very similar processes. They both originate in the fact that there’s a loss of balance between regeneration and cell loss.”
“Cystic fibrosis is an inherited genetic disease. You inherit an error in the DNA. Because of that, certain tissues do not have the capability to provide their normal function to the body. My work is focused on finding changes in DNA in different populations so we can understand better what kinds of mutations are the basis of that disease. Based on that, we can provide prognosis. There are now drugs that target specific mutations, as well as transplants, so these patients can have a much better life span than was possible 10 or 20 years ago.”
Karel: “There are two things that struck me, one that I had no idea about. The first is what Iris described earlier—the impermanence of our bodies. As a physicist, I thought the body was built early on, that it would grow and be stable. Iris showed me, over a long series of dinner discussions, that that’s not the way it works. Cells die and rebuild all the time. We’re literally not what were a few years ago, and not just because of the way we think. Everything around us does this. Nature is not outside us. We are nature.”
“As far as our relationship is concerned, I always had a great deal of respect for Iris, and physicians in general. They have to know things that I couldn’t possibly remember. And that’s only grown with time.”
Iris: “Physics was not my favorite topic in high school. [Laughs] Through Karel and our conversations, I feel that the universe and the world around us has become much more accessible. That was our goal with the book as well. We wanted it to be accessible and understandable for anyone with a high school education. It was a challenge to write it that way, to explain things to each other in lay terms. But it has certainly changed my view of life. It’s increased my sense of wonder and appreciation of life.”
Read more of judy’s “mini sermons” on this same subject click:
Peggy & Judy don’t like to promote “stuff” much less brag. Guess who’s been assigned . . . . I should be flattered they have such trust in me but I know it’s mainly because I’m the one who has the most followers and fans.
I told them I would do a post about the “LOVE” products in the CURIOUStotheMAX ZAZZLE shop if they would make me a T-Shirt to wear on Valentines day. They agreed but I’m very disappointed and you’ll see why . . .
The Early Bird Love the Worm Ladies T
P.S. I have no idea who the hairy model is but he needs a stylist.
I played violin in the high school orchestra. It was enjoyable and got me out of physical education class. Practicing was another matter. Practicing the violin was excruciating for me. It was solely focused on doing weird, complicated, boring scales over and over and over . . . no melody, NO FUN. I would set a timer for 1 hour: polish my violin for 10 minutes; resin the bow for 5; tune the strings for 15 and; laboriously do scales for the rest of the time. I did get better.
If only I had known that I could have practiced being in a good mood while I was practicing scales.
Our brains seek out familiar patterns. The more we consciously focus on positive thoughts the easier it is for our brain to access those thoughts and find positive patterns in other areas. (Of course, there is a corollary – focus on the negative and your brain will look for more negative connections). So the more you think about the positive things in your life, the easier it is to think of good things in your life.
Start at any time. Like now. Think about something “positive/good” . . . a time you had fun or laughed at a joke or a childhood celebration. It doesn’t even have to be about you or your life . . . something “positive” you’ve witnessed, read about or even imagined. Share it with someone and notice feeling happier.
The more you practice the easier it will be for your brain to access the positive and lift your mood.
Here’s an easy practice session.
Each day for a week, at the end of the day, write down 3 good or positive things that have happened to you that day and why they happened.
They can be:
When you write down why they happened give yourself credit:
My violin “practice” list would have looked like this:
Reference: Seligman, M. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Progress. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.410