You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘amino acid’ tag.

So since the Higgs Boson thing, I haven’t really written much about science. I thought I’d do a quick one on panspermia to amend this little problem.

Of all the theories on how life on Earth originated (or to be more specific, how it accelerate at such a rate), panspermia stands out as the most likely (in my opinion).

We all know life evolved over billions of years (it’s estimated that the earliest forms of life existed on earth around 3 billion years ago, if I remember my astronomy course correctly), but there was a period of time where evolution was sped up beyond predicted levels, allowing multicellular lifeforms to evolve in a much shorter time than they would normally have needed. I feel lazy tonight so I’m going to do most of this off the top of my head. If there’s anything I’m a bit hazy on, I’ll say so. I’m pretty solid on my facts of panspermia itself, I’ve just forgotten the exact timing and order of bacterial evolution on Earth. Feel free to research this yourself.

Anyhow, let’s not get into an argument over whether evolution is real or not. That would be stupid and unscientific, both of which automatically disqualify your opinion. I’m not here to say god doesn’t exist, you’re welcome to believe that he/she/it designed evolution, but the fact that evolution exists is a scientific truth on par with saying that atoms exist.

Panspermia is the hypothesis and process by which life is spread throughout the universe. The scientifc theory (let’s get this straight too, there’s a difference between a theory and a scientific theory) states that the universe is full of life (mostly at a very small and unevolved stage, such as bacteria) and these simple life forms travel around on comets, meteors and asteroids. When space rocks collide with a planet, they “seed” the planet with these simple life forms (by which I mean bacteria, carbon and amino acids). In layman’s terms, this means that life on Earth came from outer space, and very likely from Mars (because 7.5% of Mars rocks land on Earth).

Image

Here’s my own little twist to the theory (although I doubt nobody else has thought of it before). The universe, and thus life, was creating in the Big Bang. Originally, the Big Bang created hydrogen, helium and trace amounts of lithium. All the other elements on the periodic table were created in the furnaces of stars and released through supernovae, which scattered these elements throughout the universe (loosely quoted from Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson). As we know, stars are formed in nebulae, which are huge regions of dust and ionised gases, often containing these elements that were spread across the universe by other stars (which were formed by the original three elements of the Big Bang). The star’s gravity then attracts more space dust which orbit around it, eventually clumping together and forming planets. It thus follows that Earth was created in the same way, and either our nebula contained carbon (which is not unreasonable as it is one of the most common elements in the universe), or during its formation, Earth was bombarded by space rocks containing carbon. This is an absolutely necessary process as we (all life as we know it) are a carbon based life form. By that logic, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Earth was formed with existing life forms already on the planet, though sparse.

Predictions for the time that these simple life forms would take to evolve into multi-cellular life forms, given their density and state of evolution, don’t coincide with actual figures. Something boosted them along the way. Considering 7.5% of rocks from Mars reach Earth, it’s very likely that Earth was further fertilised through panspermia, boosting the bacteria numbers and speeding up the process of evolution.

So if you’ve ever wondered where life on Earth came from, the answer is space. Of course, everything was once in space (and still is) so I guess that answer should be obvious. What I mean, though, is the majority of the basic, microscopic life forms that evolved into all life around us came flying here on meteors, so if your heritage was traced back far enough, you could mostly likely claim that you’re a Martian.

Those who want to hear some evidence may look at this list I’ve quickly compiled:

  • In 1984, scientists discovered the meteor Allan Hills 84001. This meteorite had been blasted off the surface of Mars around 15 million years ago, and was found in Antarctica. In 1996 ALH84001 was shown to contain structures that may be the remains of terrestrial nanobacteria. Several tests for organic material have been performed on ALH84001 and amino acids and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have been found. (http://www.panspermia-theory.com/)
  • Bacteria can survive the harsh environment of space, and indeed, it is a well-documented fact that organic compounds are commonly found in the tails of comets. Carbon, early bacterial ingredients and amino acids are frequently found protected in meteors.
  • Mars is a more protected planet than Earth, and may have developed an inhabitable atmosphere long before Earth did (it was less hot, is more protected from bombardment, and had oxygen before Earth).
  • Recently, scientists discovered life in a sample of rock taken from Mars a few years back. Originally, they hadn’t understood what they were looking at. Unfortunately, they destroyed this life during experiments, as they had no idea what they were doing. This was in the news recently.
  • Basic life ingredients like carbon (the best building block for complex life, followed by silicone) are abundant throughout the universe. They have also been proven to be able to survive in meteors, and are always shooting around through space at high speeds. Occasionally they land on a planet, and have been proven to be able to survive that impact (prove by many examples on Earth). It follows that life in space is frequently transported around to different planets.

The chilling, mind boggling and awesome extrapolation from this information is that perhaps humans once had a powerful civilisation on Mars, which eventually destroyed the planet through our well-known penchant for unsustainable living. As the planet could no longer support life (remembering that there is evidence of old river beds on Mars), we died out there as a species, leaving traces of our existence in bacteria and amino acid forms. Panspermia then brought us from Mars to Earth, where we reset the cycle and evolved all over again. If so, it’s ironic that we’re committing the same mistake again and destroying Earth. I can’t help but think, in the near future, we’ll drain this planet too, die out again, and then our remnants will be carried off as Earth, stripped of its protective atmosphere, is blasted to pieces, and perhaps we will re-evolve again on some other planet.

Well, if you’ve ever needed something to keep you up at night thinking, there it is. Man, science is awesome.

Advertisements

I’ve been asked these a lot lately so I’m going to compile my information – otherwise I’ll be retyping the same thing over and over again. Basically, any physical or mental issues that are biologically possible can be alleviated to some degree, if not fully preventable or fixable, with good nutrition and exercise. I say “to some degree” so that people don’t start nitpicking at my words and proclaiming XYZ cannot be cured by diet and exercise – no it might not be curable but you can certainly make a positive difference. This is a medical fact that has spawned the “Exercise Physiology” field as a separate branch from physiotherapy, allowing it to be a specialisation all by itself.

Obviously obesity is the most common example but just to prove my point, I’ll give you a more obscure one. I have a fracture in my lateral meniscus that has weakened my knee a lot. I went to see a sports injury specialist – one of the best NSW apparently, every GP knows his name – and he said the only thing I can really do is strengthen the muscles around the knee to help support it (this was after already having done surgery). So yeah: “Fat? Exercise. Permanent fracture? Exercise”.

I’ll be a bit more politically correct and mention that you should only exercise properly at the proper time. I’m not telling you to drag yourself up off the road after getting hit by a car and hit the gym first. You might want to go to the hospital before that. But as a long term solution to an ailment, exercise and diet are really the only solutions (I don’t consider being on a wide range of medications for the rest of your life to sustain your existence a solution).

Most of the stuff I’m asked about relates to weight loss so I’ll focus mainly on that. Before I start, I’ll add one last disclaimer: I’m reasonably fit as I watch what I eat and work out but I’m no gym junkie. I’ve done a bit of research on these matters but I’m not an expert. What I’m telling you is really stuff that everyone should know – but for some reason they don’t. It’s simple.

I’m going to shoot the naysayers in the foot before they begin. I’m certain people have heard the whole “some people can’t lose weight even if they diet and exercise because it’s genetic or they have some kind of disorder (Syndrome X and hypothyroidism fit in here)” argument. Well if you want to get all scientific about it, I will too. Are you trying to claim that your body violates the first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy)? So you say that no matter how much energy your body uses and no matter how little energy you put into your system, you still manage to survive without losing any weight? The only  explanation for that would be if you are creating energy from nothing, thereby violating the first law of thermodynamics. If you still think this is you, then congratulations, you have transcended the laws of the universe and are a god unto yourself.

For those of us that are human, or at the very least, exist within the reality of this particular universe (multiverse theories aside), I will guarantee you that if you put less energy into your body than you burn in a day, you will lose weight. Your body needs to burn something for energy. It is not creating something from nothing.

Let me just make something clear. I have nothing against people who actually do have disorders but too often are these illnesses used as an excuse for an absolute lack of willpower and effort. And even if you do have Syndrome X or hypothyroidism, your body still obeys the first law of thermodynamics. The amount of benefit you get out of a diet will be less than someone without your condition, but you will still benefit to some degree. Hey, that’s life. It’s not equal and it’s not fair, but if there’s no point giving up and just moping about it because no one else is going to pick your ass up for you.

Just quickly on the two mentioned disorders: Syndrome X is a metabolic disorder that apparently affects one in four Americans (yes, I said Americans – if you don’t like it read the blog post before this one). It’s basically an insulin resistance; your body usually produces insulin to escort glucose into your cells where it can be burned efficiently. An insulin resistance means that your cells don’t recognise the glucose and deny it entry, leaving it to accumulate in your blood stream. Fun fact number one: insulin resistances are usually caused by obesity in the first place. It’s a slippery slope. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland at the base of your skull, which regulates your metabolism, gets low on hormone levels and thus slows your entire body down. As a result, your cells need less energy to fuel them, so you might be eating less than a similar person without hypothyroidism, but in actual fact you are still overeating (because you require less food).

By the way, your metabolism deteriorates in tandem with your health. By the same process, your metabolism gets better as you get healthier. Blaming your metabolism is just another excuse – you can improve it.

I’ve noticed my posts are turning into blocks of text so I’m going to split it up into subheadings now.

Diet:

Your body burns three types of fuel: carbohydrates (glycogen), protein and fat. These are burned in different ratios at the same time (so technically, you don’t burn each individually until it runs out then move on to the next). Of course, if you have no carbs or protein to burn, you’ll start burning fat as it is the only energy source available. Again, refer to the first law of thermodynamics. Your body can only operate with at least one of these three fuel sources because nothing in the universe can create energy from nothing and your body is only designed to burn these three types of fuel (so no, you won’t start burning off bits of your skull and brain).

Carbohydrates are the easiest for your body to burn because they convert to glycogen very easily and glycogen is basically the easiest and most available fuel for your body to burn. Glycogen is stored in your muscle to fuel their contractions and excess is stored as fat. There’s your first tip, if you want to lose weight, decrease your carbohydrate intake and if you want to gain weight, increase it (I’ll get to weight gain later). There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. The good ones are complex carbohydrates; they have a lower glycemic index which means they release energy slowly. A high glycemic index (simple carbs) means it releases energy quickly and basically your body’s glycogen levels will spike suddenly, causing a lot of it to be stored as fat because you have more glycogen than your muscle needs. Then, as you use up the glycogen in your muscles, your body now has no more glycogen (because the excess has already turned into fat), so you get hungry and eat more. Complex carbs will release glycogen slowly, meaning that glycogen will mostly go to fuelling your muscles rather than being stored as fat. The easiest way to distinguish between the two (for when you’re shopping) is that simple carbs are anything heavily processed or sugary (the latter should make a lot of sense because carbs are classified as saccharides, which basically means they’re a form of sugar). White bread, white rice, and pretty much white anything else is bad. Go for the brown option (no, this did not turn into a racial debate).

Next we have protein, a favourite for everyone trying to build muscle. Protein itself does not get burned, but rather, it gets turned into amino acids which are basically the building blocks for skeletal and cardiac muscle (among other things). Unused amino acids get converted to glycogen. Eventually, all protein will be converted to glycogen at a similar rate to carbohydrates (four kilocalories of energy per gram), but the process takes longer than for carbs. Despite this, increasing your protein intake is important for both those trying to lose weight and gain weight. For those trying to build muscle, it should be quite obvious why. I’ll explain it anyway: amino acids are needed to build muscle and if you burn out all your amino acids (during a workout, for example) you’ll start catabolising your muscles, which basically means your body will start breaking down your muscles for more amino acids (because muscles are made of amino acids and protein). For weight loss, protein is a slower fuel than carbs and more importantly, it keeps you full so you feel less need to eat. It also doesn’t that you’ll put on some tight muscle to replace your fat (if you’re exercising with your diet as you should be).

Lastly, we have fat. It’s a long-term energy source that breaks down into nine kilocalories per gram, which is more than double protein and carbs. It is much harder to break down into fuel, and thus you burn fat at a much slower rate than carbs (the easiest fuel source). As mentioned, technically, your body will be burning all three of these at the same time – so you’ll be burning tiny amounts of fat all the time, but if you have weight loss problems, chances are you’re putting on more fat while these little bits of fat are being burned.

Lesson: eat less if you want to lose weight. Stick to complex carbs instead of simple carbs and just reduce the entire amount you consume. Fibre is a lot harder to break down into glycogen so increasing your fibre intake (fibrous carbohydrates) is good too, plus it’ll increase your nutrition absorption and keep you full. Increase protein as well, to keep you full. Reduce fat intake because it’s already fat. Yes, healthy fats are still necessary, but if you have a weight problem it’s much simpler for me to say “just avoid fat”.

For weight gain – I know a lot of my friends who work out already know a lot about nutrition. Basically, you need to have fuel ready on hand so that your body doesn’t catabolise your muscles (catabolism is the metabolic process of breaking down molecules into energy). You also need amino acids to “protect” existing muscle and help build more of it. By this logic, it’s not good to work out on an empty stomach because you’ll have low glycogen and amino acid levels in your body, meaning that your work out could do more harm to your muscles than benefit.

Finally, drink lots of water. It cleanses your body and prevents water retention, which is basically your body thinking it’s short on water supplies so it stores water, causing bloatedness, puffiness of skin and an overall chubby appearance (plus cold water burns tiny amounts of calories as an added bonus). By the way, for those who don’t know, calories are a measurement of energy like a metre is a measurement of distance.

Exercise:

This is something that stereotypically, girls avoid (whereas guys stereotypically avoid the diet when trying to lose weight). I’m being politically correct here by saying “stereotypically” so don’t get offended if this is not you. The majority of fad diets are taken by girls though and a lot of guys pig out when trying to lose weight. The purpose of me mentioning this is not to point fingers, but rather to raise the issue that if you ever ignore one of these two elements to weight loss/gain, you are only doing at most 50% of the process. That means that even if you have your diet down to absolute perfection, you’re still missing half the weight loss process. Why not do 40% of each and get 80% of the process done? (These are rough figures obviously, the weighting of each element in regards to its influence on your body depends on your goal).

In terms of exercise, there is way too much information to give. I’m just going to address the most common ones. “How do I get a flat belly/six pack?” Diet. Sit ups will build your abdominal muscles but the reason why you have a big belly is because your fat is on top of your abs. In fact, getting huge abs will just push the fat out farther, making your belly look bigger. You need to burn off that fat. Core exercises are helpful here because they teach you to tighten your stomach area at all times. It’s like tensing your abs all the time.

Weight loss in general requires cardiovascular exercise, which burns a lot of energy as it is a prolonged need for fuel (as opposed to a 1RM deadlift, which is about five seconds of energy burning). As a general rule, if you’re not sweating, you’re not trying at all. If you can still walk normally when you’re done, you didn’t try hard enough. If you feel weak, almost nauseous and trembling from exhaustion afterwards, you pushed yourself and you should be proud. The same applies for weight lifting. For girls, I usually don’t recommend jogging because a lot of you jog with improper form, leading to high impact on your knees and too much strain on your ankle (which makes you develop large calves, something most of you don’t want). I recommend riding a stationary bike because it’s very low impact.

For muscle gain, most people know what to do. I’ll just say that hypertrophy (the increase in size of something in your body due to an enlargement of the cells) can only occur after cell deconstruction. What that means is basically you need to tear your muscles for them to grow bigger. You do this by overloading (lifting heavy weights). Recent studies showed that doing 80% of your 1RM (1 Repetition Max) for 5-8 reps is the most effective at building muscle. I’m not going to source it but you can Google this if you don’t believe me. No offence but I see a lot of Asians coming into my gym who flail 2kg dumbbells around for 2 minutes, chat for half an hour then leave. You might feel like you did your “gym session” for the day but really, you achieved nothing at all. Push yourself – if you’re not increasing the amount you lift every few weeks then you’re not progressing.

Well that concludes this lesson. Notice I didn’t talk about fitness here because the post would get too long. Your fitness is closely related to weight but not exactly dependent on it. Suffice to say fitness composes of four categories: cardiovascular, muscular endurance, muscular strength, and body composition (fat ratio, etc.).

I’m going to file this under Random Facts and Science because this is medicine and chemistry related (although die-hard physicists consider physics the only true science).

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 191 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 399,896 hits
Advertisements