The molecule responsible for translating the mountain of information in DNA works rapidly. It shuffles through the genetic data at such a speed that it could fly a jumbo jet if blown up to the right size, hung on the end of a wing and let go. This little collection of molecules is responsible for the gigantic orchestra of life on Earth.
Just to fill the air with unfathomably diverse clouds of living, breathing, reproducing things, trillions of these miniscule minions are working tirelessly, scanning through all the letters (nucleotides), all the Gs, Ts, Cs and As that give us the ability to text a friend, eat a bowl of chips, or jump out of an aeroplane.
They take apart the DNA, ripping out each word in the good book human being, and sticking them back together anew, why? Just because, is pretty much the frustratingly simple answer.
Understanding the computer that is your human body, indeed is the body of any living thing, is a beautiful piece of reductionism that gives us the opportunity to see any species as a series of letters, a gargantuan series of letters, that will play out a life. Much like a patent lay out to make a bicycle, this information has been stably generating human after human for approximately 5300 generations, until there are now 7 billion examples, all marvelling at day and night. You are the latest model. If there is one mistake in the genetic sequence then the result can be catastrophic for the computer, or perhaps will just make it a little more short sighted.
If you go back 5301 generations through your family tree the information was slightly different, very slightly, a few As, Ts, Gs and Cs different, and one day, maybe even today, there will be a slight adjustment that means that evolution through natural selection continues. Homo Sapiens are the current end of this branch that leads back through other hominids, Chimpanzees, Gorillas and monkeys, branches have wandered off in millions of directions, but they stem from one place.
Sitting on the waters edge in Western Australia are a happy little group of relatives that are so distant that continents have been and gone in that genealogical timeframe. Stromatolites are the visible towers made by photosynthesizing cyanobacteria, or algae, incidentally who are charged with making the world inhabitable for larger animals by decreasing the carbon dioxide rich atmosphere into an oxygen rich one. They have been unerringly building stromatolites from when the moon was about 200,000 miles closer to the earth than it is now, 3.5 billion years ago. That must have been a sight, and pretty high tides. However alien these little chaps seem, they contain the same building blocks as even the most dynamic of Human Beings. The same As, Ts, Gs and Cs.
From these mini-Babylon builders we have descended, along the way the branches have headed off into plants of all kinds, insects of all kinds, and billions of creatures that no longer exist on the planet.
At some point the ultra efficient life manufacturing microchip of DNA was happened upon, and has made life such a powerful, iconic, beautiful and whimsical part of Earth’s existence.
Questions arise as to the inevitability of DNA, and therefore life, if conditions are right. That there is such diversity and longevity to life’s part of the story of planet Earth, one must consider the meaning of it. If you were to lay out every cell contained in your body, 9 out of 10 would not strictly be yours. We are to the bacteria on and in our bodies as Earth is to us.
You are a note in this melody, one moment in the flourishing, gushing cascade of life on earth. Wholly part of Earth, just like an oak tree, a single cell amoeba, a giant blue whale. All of Earth is rendered possible by the molecule that grapples DNA, it’s continuing mission to build life, in all its weird and wonderful