This week as I have been traveling, I will include the preface to my new book (to be published soon) before we get further into the concepts and science of redox signaling:
Preface – The Journey
I have always enjoyed exploring nature. I grew up near the Rocky Mountains. In my young years, whenever we had a chance, my brother and I would take off in any direction into the mountain trails and off-trails to explore the unknown. These excursions into the unknown carry some of the most memorable experiences of my life. There was the constant intense exertion of a tough climb followed by the thrill of a new discovery. There are certain things that we soon learned along the way. Following unexplored paths is difficult and often ends in the disappointment. More times than not, we ran into insurmountable barriers, thick brush, loose sliding shale, sheer cliff faces, steep ravines, and so forth that forced us to back up and find another way around. However, from time to time during our journey, the path opened up into a breathtaking panoramic view. We paused (and sometimes hooted and hollered) to enjoy the majesty of it all. From these vantage points, we could see where we were, how far we had come, and where we were going, along with all of the incredible expansive terrain that we had yet to explore. Along with this drive for discovery also came the realization that the true joy in exploration comes in discovering truths that already exist in nature but have not been seen before. I remember being on a remote winding trail in virgin wilderness and finding a candy bar wrapper and felt let down that someone had been there before us.
In my career as a scientist, I have experienced the same pain and joy of exploration that I felt in those early days on mountain trails. To the subject at hand, when I first started to explore the possibilities of redox signaling, my expectations were very small that it would lead to anywhere interesting. After all, salt water is abundant and has been explored extensively already. I went up this off-trail just wondering where it might lead. As more and more opened to view, I became cautiously optimistic. The data from credible studies was showing me that, despite having some of the most reactive molecules in nature, this composition was perfectly safe for many types of cells and tissues. More data showed that this composition is very similar to the “bullets” used by the immune system to kill all types of microbes. Further studies have shown that it is potently antimicrobial itself, killing many different types of resistant microbes on contact. Perfectly safe and antimicrobial…could this be true? If so, there could be many applications, including that of a nearly perfect disinfectant. The first glimmers of possibility were starting to open to my view.
In our modern world, it has come to a point where our very survival depends on the ability to utilize these newly discovered technologies for our benefit. We rely on them more and more in order to continue to thrive. We rely on the transportation technologies that carry supplies, as in the plastics and new materials used to build our cars, containers and houses, the semi-conductor technologies that run our computers, cars, phones, TV’s etc. We also rely on the energy, electricity, oil, nuclear, solar, etc. that is needed to carry on all the activities of life every day. Along with the incredible benefits these technologies bring, there are also some liabilities. With solemn realization, we are finding that misuse of these same technologies can also serve toward our destruction. In our pursuit of dominance, we have developed nuclear bombs that can destroy even our most modern and advanced cities in the blink of an eye.
In every sense, our journey of discovery is a human journey, embodying the principles of the human equation that we are learning along the way: human struggle and striving, the indomitable human spirit, mixed in with greed, strife and suffering. As our knowledge increases, seemingly without bound, in true exponential fashion, in conjunction with the power it provides us to change our environment, there is a real concomitant need to master the human equation, for with great power comes great responsibility and the stakes are getting much too high to ignore. With the knowledge that we presently have in agricultural sciences, for example, it is within the realm of possibility, given what we have on hand today, to adequately grow and distribute sufficient food to feed all of the people in the world. If it is not lack of technology that prevents us from doing so, then what is it? As knowledge increases past the point where we are able to understand the very nature of life itself, then the really difficult questions begin to surface. I yearn, with all that is human within me, to believe that we will be ready and willing to face our own humanity as we travel along the journey of life into a promising future.
We truly live in exciting times where the mysteries of the ages are finally being peeled back and revealed. At present, the acquisition of knowledge is dizzying, quickly outdistancing our ability to assimilate it and apply it to real-world problems. From 1650 through 1750, there was only one scientific journal published. Ever since about 1785, about 10 generations ago, the number of scientific journals started doubling every 22.5 years consistently [ref: 21]. In the early 1900’s, there were only 250 journals with about 7,000 articles published per year, including articles by Albert Einstein and Max Plank that have changed the very world in which we live. In 2009, there were over 12,000 journals and over 1 million articles. Every month, over 100,000 scientific articles are being published, each representing months of laboratory work, amounting to millions of months of scientific work that is published and available to us each and every month.
In the upcoming century, one of the most worthy pursuits, almost to the point of being revered as sacred, is to unravel the mystery of what makes us live. Can we really understand the physical principles upon which life is based well enough to grasp the very nature of life? We are already on the pathway and, barring global calamity, we will amass enough knowledge in the next 50 years to get a good picture of the nature of our own being on a physical level. What advantage is this knowledge going to give us? When we have half of the picture, to what end will we use this knowledge? Will it be utilized, even unknowingly, to promote destructive efforts?
I take some comfort in that the fact that the evolution of knowledge is based on principles that require constructive efforts, and that misery and destruction are based on ignorance. Scientists must spend years acquiring the knowledge, which requires development of the strikingly human characteristics; the hunger to know the truth and more importantly, the dedication to study and research in unveiling the truth. These same human elements that enable scientific development are those that will help us overcome differences and move toward a bright future. The possession of such a desire leads to knowledge and self-actualization, whereas the lack of such proves self-destructive and must ultimately diminish. These are the very principles and laws that allow for our existence, that allow us to adapt and live, the physical laws that govern how our body works and how we thrive. As we discover these principles, let us not think that we are greater than them; let us not think that we can govern them; rather, let us reverence them and search for greater understanding; let us discover and conform to true principles and enjoy the life that has been given us and that which exists in such great harmony and abundance around us.