Chapter Excerpt: Navigation Map of Pathways

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The Cardiovascular and Pulmonary System – Heart, Lungs, and Blood…

In the cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary system, redox balance is strictly regulated. There are about 5000 mitochondria [producing redox signaling molecules] in every heart cell. As you can imagine, the level of superoxide free radicals (O2*-) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) [redox signaling molecules] in heart cells must be carefully regulated and controlled. The heart can never take a break and so redox imbalance and cellular damage in heart tissue must be quickly detected and repaired. The redox signaling networks among heart cells are very efficient. Endothelial layers that line the blood vessels extend these signaling networks to the whole cardiovascular network, sending signals that regulate blood flow, pressure, and needed supplies throughout the whole body, along the whole river of life, in all of our cellular communities, creating a massively complex network analogous to the signaling capacity of our nervous system…

The Digestive System – Mouth, Stomach, and Intestines

In the digestive system, the cell linings in the intestines that process nutrients are exposed to acids, enzymes, toxins, oxidants, physical stress, and all manner of harsh environments. The turnover rate for these types of cells is one of the highest in the body; tens of billions of stomach and intestinal cells are replaced per day. In fact, the entire length of intestines themselves are completely replaced about every 7 days. This continual turnover of cells requires that damaged cells are quickly detected, repaired, or replaced. You can compare the intestinal lining to a “forest” of brush cells where there are frequent redox “smoke signals” sent by the damaged cells indicating “forest fires” that need immediate attention from the emergency responders. If this redox signaling system is not in excellent shape, then potential damage can spread too quickly, causing leaks and gaps that compromise the function of the digestive system…

The Nervous System – Brain, Spine, and Peripheral Nerves

In the nervous system, brain cells are not easily replaced and must be protected. Oxidative stress is the primary reason for nerve cell death, even more so than lack of oxygen. Mental stress and worry, as well as deep thinking, increases brain activity. Heightened brain activity incites a build-up of oxidants or oxidative stress…Oxidative stress triggers seizures and/or other irregularities. Regulation of blood flow through the brain is closely monitored, as the brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and sugars. All of this is regulated by redox signaling networks…Peripheral nerves in the body send pain messages when they are exposed to oxidative stress due to oxidants in the neighborhood. Even more, the redox signaling networks are also very active in helping maintain the balance of the hormonal axes in the brain and nerves (such as the HPA axis) that help keep the emotional balance we need to function. There is no question to the prime importance of the redox signaling networks in the brain. The brain contains most complex signaling network in the body integrally and intricately connected by such signaling networks.

The Endocrine System – The Pituitary, Thyroid, and Adrenals

In the endocrine system, glandular secretions (hormones) are triggered by stress and redox pathways. We have already discussed how important it is to our emotional and physical state to maintain hormonal balance throughout the whole network of the endocrine system. If oxidative stress is the trigger for hormonal secretions and redox signaling regulates oxidative stress, you can imagine the importance of redox signaling to maintain balance in the endocrine system. There is direct evidence that correct redox balance in the vital fluids around our cells also helps lubricate the “windows” and “doors” (receptors) that bring hormonal messages (and insulin) into the cells, which means that smaller numbers of hormones may be needed to do the job, making hormonal regulation lighter and faster and more readily balanced.

The Excretory System – The Skin, Kidneys, and Colon

The tissues of our excretory systems (skin glands, kidneys, colon, etc.) have the unsavory job of sorting through and eliminating the toxic garbage of the body. This requires efficient management of toxic response and extraordinary communication signals between specialized layers of tissue, as well as top-grade protective equipment (antioxidants) to do the job. There is perhaps no other system of the body where redox signaling is more active to maintain the immediate health of the tissues than in the kidneys and intestines. Their specialized layers of tissue are constantly sorting and pushing along the toxic garbage. These toxins cause oxidative stress and cell death due to toxic insult of the tissues. As always, the antioxidants need to be on call to quickly clean up the oxidative stress before it causes any serious damage and repair and replace damaged cells. The oxidative stress itself also helps identify the toxins and helps them to move out through the excretory channels. All these processes require a high level of redox signaling. Toxic stress, in addition, causes the release of certain hormones associated with toxic load. For example, the kidneys will release a hormone called renin when they are under a high toxic stress. Renin is designed to increase the blood pressure needed in order to push the toxins out faster. Of course, water (proper hydration) is always regulated and beneficial to excretory processes…

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Another Excerpt from Final Chapters: Redox Signaling Mediates Everything

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The field of redox signaling is destined to become the field of science that will fuel the greatest medical discoveries in this next century and beyond. The universal signaling systems that exist in the fluids of life, inside every living cell and tissue, the signaling systems that have existed from the inception of life and in all forms of life that have existed or will exist on earth constitute the most fundamental signaling systems in biology. They reveal to us what makes life work on the smallest, most universal level. Redox signaling describes the molecular signaling mechanisms that modify the structure of water, that transmit messages throughout the fundamental fluids of life. The simple, common molecules that initiate and transmit these messages through living fluids are mostly manufactured inside living cells from water (hydrogen and oxygen) and salt (chloride and sodium), and also include a few of most common elements of life (nitrogen, carbon and sulfur). These are the molecules that initiate and mediate the life-sustaining redox signaling pathways throughout all the cells and tissues of our body…

If you are interested in looking up scientific literature in the field of redox signaling, you probably will not find any direct reference under the name of “redox signaling molecules”. I have taken some literary license to create descriptive names – such as “semaphores”, “reductants” and “redox signaling molecules” – that are not commonly used in scientific literature to describe such classifications of molecules. I have attempted to define these literary terms and place the scientific names in parenthesis as much as possible in this book. In order to do literature searches on this group of “redox signaling molecules”, try looking up: Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), referring to the species of molecules containing oxygen (hydrogen peroxide, superoxide free radical, hypochlorite ion, singlet oxygen). Reactive Nitrogen Species (RNS) refers to species containing nitrogen (Nitric Oxide free radicals and other downstream nitrogen radical cascades). Of course, you can refer to each by its chemical name to get information. For example, google/scholar: “redox signaling hydrogen peroxide”. If you wish to get information on “reductants”, it would be best to search under “electron donors” or “reduced species”…There are literally hundreds of scientific articles being written on this subject every month, representing thousands of months of scientific effort across the world. It is truly marvelous to be living in this day and age where knowledge gained from everywhere in the world is almost instantaneously accessible by anyone with a true desire to know.

Possibly even more important than finding the appropriate vocabulary to express the scientific concepts, the potential applications for these emerging technologies in the health science fields need to find adequate expression. Since redox signaling is active in every cell and tissue, the potential health care applications are universal to all forms of life, cells, tissues, organs, and systems. The cardiovascular system, endocrine system, nervous system, digestive, and excretory systems all heavily rely on these redox signaling pathways to carry out their daily business. The innate immune system requires redox signaling almost more than any other system to detect areas of cellular damage, to assess the situation, to kill the microbes, to shut down damaged cells, and to stimulate regeneration of tissue…

One of the first things that drew me into study the field of redox signaling was the realization that the immune system kills bacteria and viruses almost exclusively by shooting them with an “oxidative burst” containing a composition of many of the redox signaling molecules I was studying. This was of interest to me. Certainly the primary weapon of the immune system must be completely effective against all types of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that exist; otherwise, we would all be subject to mass extinction. The oxidative burst used by the immune system to kill all types of microbes and parasites is a combination of superoxide free radicals (O2*-), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and hypochlorite ions (OCl-). These molecules should be somewhat familiar to us at this point. So, at the very least, one possible application of this technology would be to develop an extremely effective and safe disinfectant. Such a disinfectant would use the same “technology” that is used in the immune system to kill microbes and yet be harmless to healthy normal cells….This “redox disinfectant” would be safe and effective for all types of tissues on all such types of multi-cellular life…

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Journey of Discovery into Redox Signaling–Book Excerpts

 

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The major purpose of this book is to give the reader an overarching view of the myriad pathways that exist in living organisms and the amazing complexities of their interaction. At the end of our journey of discovery into redox signaling pathways, one thing is clear: there are a vast amount of pathways carrying signals in our body. Most, if not all of these pathways intersect or are influenced by redox signaling pathways. The redox signaling molecules that participate in these pathways exist in most all of the vital fluids in our body. They are produced as part of metabolic processes (ROS from mitochondria), immune processes (oxidative burst), and redox signaling processes (NADPH complexes), in all types of blood vessels (vasoconstriction/dilation), molecular transport processes (g-protein receptors), and cellular signaling reception processes (endothelial cells). They play essential roles in the innate immune system, endocrine (hormonal) system, nervous system, digestive system, excretory (toxin detection and removal) system, cardiovascular system, and in any system that requires detection, repair, and replacement of damaged cells and tissues, which pretty much includes all of the systems in our body. So the real question should be: “What pathways do they not affect?” These redox signaling molecules form a set of signaling molecules that quite possibly affect the pathways in all areas of the body.

When individually isolated, practically all of these redox signaling molecules (such as hydrogen peroxide, hypochlorite or superoxide) have immediate…effects that has been documented over a century of science…It is difficult to believe that there exists a combination of these redox signaling molecules that even in high concentrations have absolutely no such toxic effects on healthy normal cells, tissues, and systems. And yet, we have discovered such a technology. This electrolyzed saltwater solution, as outlined above, contains most of the ROS components, yet, as a whole behaves much differently than expected from any of its individual components. As we have discussed, this electrolyzed salt water does not activate NF-kapaB pathways or cause inflammation in any measurable degree in normal cells, irrespective of the individual components. However, it does activate NRF2 and increase antioxidant efficiencies in human lung endothelial cells and somehow shifts metabolic profiles in animals and humans. Not only is this unexpected, it is in some sense miraculous and has not been observed before for any other compound.

Given the vast quantity of pathways that these ROS components can alter, the very fact that this electrolyzed Redox solution is relatively inert and very safe when in contact with living tissue needs to be explained and accounted for…Perhaps the only explanation is simply that cells and tissues can easily deal with this Redox solution because it is already in a form that is similar to the endogenous ROS compounds already found in the cells, tissues, and systems. Even adding large amounts of this solution to cells and tissues does not seem to disturb redox equilibrium and homeostasis. This solution can easily be dealt with by the cells and tissues…For those who are truly on a journey of discovery, the observations made so far about this electrolyzed Redox solution represent an expansive horizon of unexplored terrain, stretching outward in all directions. For the first time in history, we have found something that has practically no adverse effects for all types of cells and tissues and yet can directly affect some of the most fundamental redox pathways that have existed in all forms of life since the beginning (of oxidative processes). We have found a remarkable path into the unknown regions of life. There is a certain sense of adventure in not quite knowing what lies around the corner as we continue to explore this expansive wilderness that, for now, seems to have no end.

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Is Pain Good?

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How could we ever say that feeling pain is good? Why do we feel pain? What is the purpose of pain? Could we get by without it? The answers to these questions reveal much wisdom. Let’s use our imagination for a minute, imagine the greatest athlete you know. Can you see this the person’s face? It is 100% probable, that this person has put themselves through hours, weeks and years of painful practice routines to get where they are now. Intuitively we know that. When we stand and cheer them, we also honor the years of discipline needed to succeed. We see stadiums of cheering and sometimes crazy fans, willing to pay stifling amounts, to see athletes perform. Why?

We relate to the pain and sacrifice they paid to succeed, we can almost feel it in some way. Now imagine a list of the salaries of the top-rated athletes. We also realize the importance that society places on their achievement. We say, “No pain, no gain.” Pain is a necessary element that leads to success. Let’s call this type of pain “good pain”.

What about the physical pain we feel in our bodies? Since we don’t “ask for it”, could we still think of this type of pain as “good pain”, the kind that ultimately leads to the successful performance of our physical body? It is tempting to think that the pain we feel inside our bodies is an indication of a failure of some sort, an illness, an injury, a malfunction, a weakness in our system. Is unwanted physical pain something that should be considered as evil, something to be eliminated? If we really understand the reason that physical pain exists, we might want to seriously consider that even unwanted physical pain can be “good pain”, the kind that leads to the ultimate success and triumph of our body.

Several years ago, I was eating some soup and felt a stab of pain on the right side of my gut. Over the next few hours, the pain became so intense that I was afraid that I might lose consciousness, I went to the hospital. They found that the blood supply to a part of my small intestine had become strangled by a fiber of fat, a very rare occurrence. Emergency surgery was needed, they opened me up with a 12-inch incision, explored my intestines, found that part of it had already died, they resected the dead part and put me back together. When the anesthesia wore off, the pain was intense. I was given a “pain pump” that administered morphine at the press of a button I could hold in my hand, this was a gift from an ex-president of the University of Utah (an honored medical doctor and friend that had come to visit me.)

Knowing the real dangers of an extended hospital stay, I really wanted to avoid infection, heal and leave the hospital as quickly as possible. At this point, having an academic knowledge of my body helped. I knew that the pain I felt was indicating where my body was healing and was there to help me avoid reinjury as my abdomen closed. I avoided pressing the morphine button and decided to endure the pain as much as I could. In fact, I focused my mind on the pain and with the mental clarity afforded me, I could know exactly where healing was taking place. As soon as I could, I learned how to scoot to the edge of my bed, the pain directed me as to how fast I could go as I pulled myself into a seated position. I learned to manage all the feeding tubes, IV’s, etc. so I could stand and walk around, pulling all my baggage around with on my IV rack as I went. This exhausted me and I was able to sleep. As a result, my abdomen healed well and I was released from the hospital in three days (4 days following the surgery). I considered the pain to be my friend and that made it much more tolerable.

Physical pain originates from nerve stimulation caused by oxidative stress, in turn, oxidative stress is caused by an excess of oxidants that naturally build up in and around damaged and stressed cells. The natural purpose of oxidative stress is to alert the body to the damage by sending signals (including pain, inflammation, and immune response) that activate the genes in the cells that motivate the healing processes, repair the damage which ultimately removes the source of stress and damage. The signaling generated by oxidation is called redox signaling (signaling through reduction/oxidation). When the cells are successful in their repair efforts, redox balance in the cells are restored and the pain and inflammation subside as the tissues are rebuilt, better than new.

If even intense physical pain can be a tool for healing, then what then could be considered as “bad pain”? Since pain is an indication of where the body is healing, we can define “bad pain” as the type that does not serve as a tool to ultimately lead us to the healing and success of the body. The chronic, persistent pain that indicates that something is wrong, but the body is not strong enough to activate the healing response to the extent needed to repair the damage. Things can go bad, though, when the body is not able, for some reason, to complete this healing process. Chronic persistent oxidative stress causes even more damage (excess oxidants can be harmful), such damage causes more oxidative stress, stimulating even more stress and oxidation, and a downward cycle ensues. Such processes contribute to chronic problems, such as chronic inflammation, arthritis, lupus, irritable bowel, allergic response, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders, and even emotional and mental problems, and so on.

The only way to turn off the oxidative stress and pain and start healing in these instances is to eliminate the stressor, if possible, and then turn off the oxidative stress cycle that will allow the tissues to heal naturally. Methods to turn off these inflammatory signals in our bodies are available to us if we choose to use them.

Antioxidants from foods, vitamin C, redox-balanced supplements (shown to reduce oxidative stress and enhance redox signaling), eating leafy green vegetables, decreasing sugars and carbohydrates, physical exercise, adequate hydration, sleep, relief from chronic emotional stressors are all accessible methods to turn off the inflammatory genes and start healthy tissue regeneration.

The mind is a wonderfully potent tool. Try this: in a quiet place relax your body, focus your mind on the bottom of your feet, you may become aware of tingling sensations or “dull pain” that indicates places where your feet are repairing themselves. Now slowly move your focus to your calves, knees, thighs, abdomen, back, lungs (breathing), arms, neck, jaw, teeth, and so on, noting any sensations you feel. You will find that you can receive messages from almost every part of your body about its condition and how it is healing.

By focusing on the signals coming from various parts of the body you can also stimulate healing. I do this exercise to help relieve my back pain on long flights and help me sleep. I focus on my back, “listen” to the places where my back hurts, make subtle adjustments to relieve the stress on my spine that helps center my weight and reduce the pain, and focus on my breathing. I find that with this focus, I can relax and even sleep on long flights. It feels like magic.

Pain is there to motivate us to make the adjustments necessary to heal.

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My Story

I am at the SOPMed [Society of Progressive Medical Education] Conference this week(sopmed.org) in Colorado Springs among some of the greatest men, with the greatest hearts and minds in alternative medicine that I know.  [Alternative medicine is a misnomer, we should try doing it long before doing the worse “alternatives” of surgery and harsh drugs].  Today at the conference, VSRI [Virtual Science Research Institute] is announcing the Alpha release of Atlus Blue (a project we have worked on for some years).  Atlus Blue is a web-based tool intended to help us nurture the working relationships we carry away from inspirational conferences, a secure super network of the people that engender the collaborations needed to develop the ideas and relationships that will build our world tomorrow.  This tool was forged from the germ of an idea Zach Bush and I discussed a few years ago.  We found that it has the potential of becoming the new on-line development platform open to all humanity.  It will be released soon.

This week the editor for my book also came back with the news that my new ebook “Journey of Discovery into Redox Signaling” will soon be ready for publication on Amazon, Kindle, etc.  On top of all that, a project to bring nanonutrients in water (Genius Functional Water in Mexico) to the world has gained some needed momentum as new large distributors and potential partners are showing enthusiastic interest.  My company Nanotechnology Solutions, that produces the nanonutrients, finally is taking steps to duplicate the “Nanomaker” machine for mass production. I feel like I’m going through hard labor pains right now, ready to  give birth to quadruplets.  Much is on the line for me.

I have had some time to reflect on my life, today.  I do not consider myself to be an exceptional person, perhaps only dumb enough to not give up.  The task that I feel is mine is to reveal the truths that I have discovered along my journey in life and hope that these insights will have an impact in the lives of others I have encountered along the way.  I have been blessed with a sharp analytical mind and a love for science that has forced me to get my Ph.D. in physics and to apply that knowledge in areas that I feel have value for humanity.  Today I feel the need to confess the longings of my soul.

I have been trained, it seems for my whole life, to search for the truth. I have wondered how the truth can be obtained from my observations. This is not such an easy task as it might seem. I realized early on in life that what I observe with my eyes and senses is clearly subjective to what I think is happening; even the source of my own observations might not always represent the objective truth.

When I pondered this bit too much, my own existence came into question. The great philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes did the same; remember his statement “I think therefore I am”. He used his observation that he could “think” as proof of his own existence. Contemporary thinkers wrote the popular movie, The Matrix, that explores the same insecurity in the perception of reality, my apology to those who have not seen the movie.

While this insecurity does not plague me anymore, I always tend to be very careful of what I consider to be true or not true and have learned to embrace the sense of uncertainty. There is one thing that I know for sure, that life is uncertain. This self-realization has even been helpful in my professional career as an atomic physicist. I understand that Quantum Theory is based on uncertainty and observation bias. When I first learned it, the part about uncertainty seemed familiar and yet it still felt a bit mysterious, like something was missing. I originally thought that at least physical matter and nature should be predictable and determined. Quantum Theory states that only the probability of something happening in the future can be determined. The exact outcome cannot be determined and is subject only to the probabilities. There is no way, for example, to determine how even the smallest particle, like an electron, will behave in a given situation; the number of possible future states are determined, but exactly which one of these states the electron will “choose” is not determined. It is comforting to think that even an electron has fundamentally the same sense of uncertainty that I had felt for years.

If you do not understand what I am talking about, do not be concerned, it takes a little bit of getting used to. My intention in bringing this all up is to help you understand how I have come to look at truth and life. When I find something that I feel is absolutely true, like homeostatic balance, symmetries, aspects of cellular biology and such, I cannot help but want to teach the wonders of it to others. This makes me a good student and teacher, but might not help me wow the crowd at parties. The way I look at truth and life, however, has brought me a great number of possibilities in life. Possibilities that seem to be coming together now into a coherent picture.

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We Serve Because We Love

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The universal governing systems of heaven are made apparent to all those who seek the truth, to all who feel the influence of heaven in their lives. This universal principle of heaven is: “We serve because we love”. All the experiences in life are present to teach us this principle.

We serve in our families because we love them.  We serve in our community because we love them. We learn new skills with excellence in our careers because we love to apply them to serve the needs of others. We serve our Father in Heaven because we love Him and appreciate what He has done for us. If we have not learned this, we are not in heaven. If we have learned this, then all is ours and we are in heaven regardless of present circumstance; we know that love is built through service.

The governing system of heaven leads us to this realization. Those that master their craft, pass their knowledge to those that desire to learn it. Those that learn it, employ it to serve others. Those that are so served, return a just part of their services or goods to those that served them with gratitude. Those that are successful in their craft return a portion of these services and goods to those that taught them. And the cycle is complete.

This is the economy of heaven. The result is that every person receives all that is needed to live a wonderful fulfilling life; all appreciate and love those who serve us and those who we serve. This is heaven. It leads toward a society filled with truth, love and perfection. I have seen this in practice.  Happy Fathers Day!

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What Makes Life Work?

Oxygen Atom with Electron Clouds, Hydrogen and Water Clusters

How and where will the secret of life be found? In my youth I was taught that an atom was the smallest fundamental unit of all matter. In my young mind, I reasoned that the mysteries of how all things work must be found in the atom. I was so enamored by this concept that I ended up studying atomic physics in college and later went on to earn my Ph.D. in that field. The answers to the universe, I thought, must be found in how the atoms work. After all, there only exist a grand total of less than 100 stable types of atoms. Out of those, there are only 20 or so necessary for basic life processes and the vast majority of the molecules of life are combinations of Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Sulfur– only six of them. In the innocence of youth, I reasoned, it should not be too hard to figure out how everything works; it’s like putting together tinker toys or Legos where only a few different types of Legos exist. I may have underestimated just a bit how many different things you can build with just this limited set of “Legos”.

In my college career, I learned that atoms are governed by a set of quantum mechanical laws and symmetries that determine how atoms are built and can fit together to make molecules. Predictive models can be built, mathematically, to describe how single atoms interact with surrounding atoms. These models make use of the concept of “fields”, such as electric fields, magnetic fields, gravitational fields, etc. that describe how atoms interact with each other and the fields that exist around them. The behavior of each particle is characterized and influenced by the fields that the particle itself generates and the fields that surround it. In a sense, we can experience this concept by playing with common refrigerator magnets. We notice that if we orient magnets a certain way they will attract each other, by some sort of invisible “field” and yet in other ways they will repel each other, and so there are only a limited number of configurations that allow them to stick together to form structures. Electric fields that we observe, by rubbing balloons on cloth, for example, also follow physical laws. These observable but invisible fields are formed from the alignment of trillions of trillions of fields from the individual atoms that make up the objects, each atom possessing its own fields and following similar types of laws.

There are only four types of fields we know of in nature. The “gravitational” field is so weak that you need objects the size of a planet before you can really feel it, but it is far-reaching and stretches across the entire universe. In sharp contrast, the “strong” field only acts over a distance the size of a proton, but is a trillion, trillion, trillion times stronger than the gravitational field. The strong field sticks the protons together when they get close enough to each other; otherwise the clusters of protons in a nucleus would fly apart. The “weak” field binds electrons and protons together to make neutrons. But the king of the fields, of course, is the “electromagnetic” field that causes electrons to be attracted to protons, electrons to repel electrons, and protons to repel protons. The electromagnetic field causes the electrons to move in and buzz around the clusters of protons in the nucleus, which are bound together by the strong fields. The electrons spread themselves out around these clusters of protons to form atoms. All of this amounts to atomic field theory. The combined fields from all these particles inside the atoms also serve to attract and repel the neighboring atoms and cause the atoms to arrange themselves and “stick” together into structures called molecules.

If we were somehow to look at matter on its most fundamental level, we would see that everything we sense, experience, and know to be real is composed of trillions of trillions of fundamental particles that are simply following the governing laws of what is known as field theory. Everything is made up of tiny particles floating around in space like electrons, protons, and neutrons that are spinning and rotating around each other at blazing speeds. All of these tiny sub-atomic particles cannot be modeled as individual solid objects. They don’t have solid boundaries but are best characterized by the fields that they create and how they interact with each other. What we perceive as being a solid surface is formed because these particles have organized themselves into structures that “stick” together, much like stacking a bunch of charged floating magnets together to form a floating surface of magnets where the motion of each magnet is restricted by the fields generated by the neighboring magnets.

For example, if we place our hand on a table or surface, we sense pressure when the electromagnetic fields from the array of atoms in our hands push against the fields from the array of atoms on the surface. As the atoms of the surface are pushed by the fields of the atoms in your hand, the atoms of the surface will slightly flex out of place and push back on the atoms in your hand. Your hand will not be able to go through the surface without breaking the bonds that hold the surface atoms together. If we could somehow magically turn off the electromagnetic fields, there would be more than enough space to allow the atoms in your hand to pass through the atoms of the table. The electromagnetic field prevents this from happening. Not only does it hold atoms together by attractive forces, it keeps atoms spaced apart by repulsive forces and acts over relatively large distances on the atomic scale. It’s as if these fields are super-charged refrigerator magnets floating in space, strong enough to attract or repel each other even when they are several lengths away from each other.

The field properties that make these atoms align and stick to each other describe and determine all the properties of matter. For example, if the electromagnetic fields from the atoms on the surface of the table were aligned so that they would attract the atoms in your hand, the surface would be considered “sticky” and you might have difficulty removing your hand from the table. It is the configuration of atoms bound together in these molecules that gives them their characteristics , which are used to interact with all of the other molecules in their local environment. In turn, the way the molecules interact determines the properties of all matter and explains what all things are and how all things work on the most fundamental level.

As we have attempted to visualize what things might look like if we were the size of an atom, it may be helpful to realize that the electrons are moving at several million miles per hour on average. The atoms on a surface are interacting with each other over a million, million times a second and a typical inch of surface is tens of millions of atoms long. Anything large enough to see– like a speck of dust in the sunlight– consists of many trillions of atoms and anything large enough to feel, like a salt crystal, consists of a billion, billion atoms. You need to realize that everything is extremely small and extremely fast on the atomic scale. The surface of your table on an atomic scale would look like a vast system of mountains and valleys made of vibrating molecules stretching off into infinity in all directions.

When we consider all the incredible complexities of life, it is no surprise that everything comes down to how the molecules are formed, put together, and how they interact inside the living cells and tissues. The basic fundamental secrets of life, we might suppose, are found in how the molecules themselves are formed, how they interact with other molecules in their environment, and how they shift and change over the course of their existence. At first, it seems a bit strange to fathom how all life can be composed of molecules–a bunch of whirling particles following a set of physical laws and fields– and how this can lead to sentient, conscious beings that are self-aware, can act for themselves, and have learned enough to discover and ponder the very principles that allow themselves to exist. This might be an open question, yet there is no denying that on the most fundamental level, we are composed of molecules and yet we hold the breath of life within ourselves.

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