Origins of Life #2

Spending numerous hours over the last couple of days on the literature surrounding ‘Origins of Life’, it has been a very exciting read. I cannot believe I never thought about this question yet – how did biological life evolve from chemical compounds? On the positive side, it means my exercise of flexing the idea muscle is not useless.

When I deeply think about our lives, the level of intelligence achieved by human species is just mind boggling. In fact, not just humans, the complexity of the tiniest simplest living creatures is so huge that we cannot yet fathom how such creatures came into being. How did a bunch of molecules end up being smart enough to develop into even a single cell? Mind you, one cell in today’s human body consists of millions and millions of molecules. Considering even the prehistoric times of 3 to 4 billion years ago when life is estimated to have originated, a set of molecules would have decided to bunch together. Why on God’s Earth would life spark in them? What would make them want to think about reproduction? Why would they not just let themselves be and collide/fuse/break among themselves and play around? Why would they want to develop themselves into something that is preservation-worthy; something that needs food and energy from the environment and then even be able to store information that can be passed down through generations?

It is incredibly fascinating and helps understand the fact that it took millions of years for us to evolve. However, the question about the first spark still remains? Why and how did those non-living molecules evolve to a living cell? Could it actually be a supernatural power (not as the God humans currently believe in, but some microbe from a faraway planet)? Or is it the primordial soup that the literature talks about that is difficult to fathom by the current human brain? Such a primordial soup would have lots of chemical reactions taking place that would lead to more and more complex molecular structures.

There are two ways to break down the problem here: (1) bottom-up approach where we aim to understand how these chemical compounds could have given birth to a cell (possibly the most important cellular component being a cell membrane as that allows the cell to first protect itself from the environment and then allow itself even a chance to evolve). This is the approach I briefly discussed above in even trying to understand the situation.

(2) There is also the second top-down approach, where we study the current cellular structure and then gradually break down its components to understand the absolute necessary pieces required to sustain life. Here, we understand the three key components – one, RNA, two, DNA and three, protein. As I currently understand, RNA can serve the dual purpose of DNA (carrying genetic information) and the protein (enzymes carrying metabolic reactions for energy etc.). Hence, many scientists believe the origins of life to be RNA-only world.

Obviously, I have barely even scratched the surface of this subject. I am sure the answers are not easy to get and fathom as the implications would be far-reaching. If we can create life out of non-living things, I mean – simply put – wouldn’t we become Gods? Clearly, huge moral implications for the human race, but also importantly, the scientific world would simply explode.

Origins of Life # 1

Why are there biological life forms on earth? It is mind boggling that in our observable universe, we have never come across any other biological life form – not even simplest forms like single-celled amoebas.

I mean most humans just accept that fact and let it be for the smart scientists to figure out the reason. Obviously humans have always had that curiosity and formulated varied theories to support this fact. So it is not a new unusual question. However, I want to get more understanding and knowledge of this age-old question and perhaps, gain insights into the origins of religion and other themes that resonate with most of humanity.

Strictly in scientific terms as the world accepts (it would have to be another post that discusses how religion and science are perhaps complementary and not in direct conflict), the question boils down to – how did the world full of chemical compounds lead to complex biological life forms? At Big Bang, there must have been only core elements/compounds as we understand in chemistry. Gradually, these chemical compounds would have collided, and led to creation of more complex compounds and then at some point in the early age of Earth (assuming biological life does not exist outside Earth), the molecules became quite complex and at the right habitable time, the first biological life form was created.

What led to that creation? Was it a plant or an animal? Was it just a single-celled amoeba? In the next few days or weeks, I will aim to dive into the existing scientific literature/blogs/Wikipedia, to help answer these questions.

As humans stretch their potential to become an inter-planetary species, answers to such questions will become ever more relevant in our pursuit. Exciting times ahead!!

Why MBA?

I came up across an interesting ‘waitbuywhy.com’ post on ‘why is my laptop on’ questioned by a six-year old George.

Let me apply that to my ‘why mba’ question and hopefully get some clarity on my career direction

Why MBA
Because that will provide me an education on managing business
(forgetting the herd mentality of gaining prestige and money for now)

Why manage business
Because that is what I seem to find interesting in my day to day work.
(forgetting the herd mentality of gaining prestige and money for now)

Why do you find it interesting
Because I do. For example, participating in the Operating plan prep meetings for Xeljanz was exciting. Being able to do something that makes a direct impact in business makes it worth the effort.

How do you make an impact?
By doing analysis and providing insights into how the brand should be run. I do not make the final decision. So I need the next set of skills through MBA to be able to lead and be responsible for the actual decision making and the direction of the brand strategy.

Why does leading a business mean so much to you?
Because it gives meaning and a sense of purpose.

Really?
Ummm. I don’t know. But I need a sense of purpose and direction in life. I have reached a stage where I am not passionate about the work I am doing.

Why not?
Well – I feel stagnated at times especially with the boring data requests. Some of the projects are exciting when you shape the strategy or provide meaningful direction to the brand team on various strategies. I do not have enough structure in my life to manage everything well.

So you basically need better time management skills?
Yes at the least. I don’t want to procrastinate.

Then why do you procrastinate so much?
It is due to the instant gratification monkey pulling me away from the real work. The inertia to start meaningful work is too high for me and there are multiple monkeys pulling my attention to something tiny and exciting – like a tennis video or a song or a tv show or facebook or magazine article or email or text messages or writing this post.

Are we now digressing from the topic?  I still do not know why you want to manage business.
Yes right. I love to create things – a product or a service. Like that KBC software as a kid. Or the hours spent on photoshop to create posters or college magazine covers. That excites me. Being part of a business where my work is very closely aligned to the bottom line would be thrilling. That would be easy to do in a startup than spending decades in a huge organization like Pfizer.

That is helpful. Then just join a startup related to healthcare industry. Why the MBA?
I still the business skills. But yes, if I do not get admission, then I will actively explore the option to work in such a startup.


Some clarity if not complete. I should use this technique more often when I face dilemmas in life. Atleast forces me to think more deeply than letting myself stop at the first ‘why’