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Dare to Be 100: Molecular Storm

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Certainly the most enlightening book of my recent acquaintance is "Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos," written by Prof. Peter Hoffman of Wayne State University. This book may actually be the last piece in the puzzle that I have been laboring on for several decades. In it I believe it lies the fundamental explanation for the process of aging.

Hoffman's book explores the vast world of the very small, nano-molecules and their constituent components, the atoms. We know that this new nano-world exists but we are unable to visualize directly due to its submicroscopic nature.

The most visible evidence for this world comes from the activity known as Brownian Movement after biologist Richard Brown, 1787. He was studying the grains of pollen when suspended in a beaker of water. They exhibited a jittery motion like dust particles in a beam of sunlight. This observation was also preceded by Lucretius in his work on the Nature of Things, 50 B.C.

Stimulated by this seemingly mysterious activity Einstein postulated that the movement of the particles was really the result of molecules being jostled about by miniature collisions of the water molecules, 10 to the 21st power collisions per second. Reducing this complexity to mathematical terms results in the study of molecules as constrained by the rules imposed by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Richard Feynman's lectures on nanotechnology brought the field to the modern era. Reading Hoffman's book brought me up to date, and encouraged its application to the domain of aging.

The average molecule is a bio machine often designed for mechanical effort. In an aqueous medium they jostle about like ping-pong balls caught in a jet stream. Their seemingly chaotic behavior is incredibly dynamic, and inevitably must underlie other downstream phenomena such as protein folding. Mis-folding of protein molecules by these deforming influences is perhaps the best example of how these physical events, seemingly random, are actually susceptible to information analysis. The whole terrain of mis-folding of protein molecules is a defining element of the aging process. It is a hot issue. But protein mis-folding is only one of a series of misadventures caused by the molecular storm. DNA damage, telomere shortening, free radical damage, etc. are all on the list of age associated findings which until now have lacked a final explanatory sequence. Now the molecular storm is the Rosetta Stone that we can refer to as the underlying causation.

Hoffman's book comes as one of those epiphany moments that astound and enlighten.

Reference: Peter Hoffman, Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order out of Chaos 2012 Basic Books N.Y.