Science Club Post: Starstuff

Today we’ll talk about life, stars, music, art & cancer. I’ll play two songs. Then we’ll talk about them. Keep in mind that discussion is encouraged; in other words, disagreements are allowed. The first song is called Solstice. From the album Biophilia (Björk, 2011):

 

What is a star? Why did the ancients thought of them as musical entities, responsible for time, life & death? Now we know that Sol–our star–is not unique. And it can be the size of an atom, compared to other stars:

 

Rho Cassiopeiae Sol VY Canis Majoris.png
Rho Cassiopeiae Sol VY Canis Majoris” by Anynobody – Own work by uploader.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Right to left: VY Canis Majoris compared to Betelgeuse, Rho Cassiopeiae, the Pistol Star, and the Sun (too small to be visible in this thumbnail). The orbits of Jupiter and Neptune are also shown.
[][][][]
The second song is Blackstar. From David Bowie’s last album, Blackstar.
You might be asking yourselves, “What does this song has to do with science? Wasn’t David Bowie the artist that recently died a few days ago?” The aim of this Science Club is to develop scientific literacy, while observing that Science is an interdisciplinary human activity, that accounts for the whole spectrum of the human experience.
This said, I believe that David Robert Jones is a good vehicle to talk about Science. Besides him being one of the most influential artists that has ever existed–a quick Google search will provide a wealth of information on this matter–, he was also a huge Science nerd. His art–which included theater, music and film–was constantly mutating; as if he wanted to escape time itself (Could you think of two topics more related to Science and Art than time and mutations?).
Unfortunately, time and cells behaving badly–aka cancer–caught up to him. He was 69 years old: “A ‘black star’ is a proliferative breast lesion… described as long and thin with radiating radiolucent linear structures, which against a radiolucent fat background gives a black star or dark star appearance”.
Could we as a species win the war against cancer? Or is it something that will forever be a part of our genome? Will Biotechnology, Genetic Engineering, Gene Therapy, etc. cure cancer once and for all? If so, will the 21st century see our favorite artists, our loved ones–pets and family members alike–easily living beyond the age of 100, while looking as young as 60?

CRISPR overview.jpg
CRISPR overview” by NielsrcaOwn work

“CRISPR has enormous potential application, including altering the germline of humans, animals and other organisms, and manipulating the genes of food crops. By delivering the Cas9 protein and appropriate guide RNAs into a cell, the organism’s genome can be cut at any desired location.CRISPRs have been used in concert with specific endonuclease enzymes for gene editing (adding, disrupting or changing the sequence of specific genes) and gene regulation in species throughout the tree of life. Ethical concerns have been expressed about this nascent biotechnology and the prospect of intentional gene editing by humans.”Via
[][][][]
Time. Change. Mutations. Stars. Music.
What do these words have in common? How can talking about the largest star ever discovered, and a recently diseased rock star, lead to a discussion about Science?
To put it simply, we are starstuff. And by we, I mean you, me, a plant, a bacterium, etc. The elements of life–SPONCH–were cooked in the piths of ancient stars that spewed their dust on barren celestial bodies. Our planet was one of them. DNA, the language of life, is made from the aforementioned elements. This molecule can make copies of itself, and it can also change. These changes accumulate over billions of years, resulting in what we know as evolution. Sometimes, though, these mutations lead to what we know as cancer.
The very nature of our universe–which is chaotic, leading to disorder, according to entropy–is written in our cells; cells that have information in them, which can lead to cancer, making us face death. But, if enough of these changes are preserved, allowing for brains to get big, and hands develop thumbs, and weird and wonderful animal can get eyes, and those eyes can look at the night sky and hear music, then we have humans: animals aware of their existence; beings that know that one day they’ll return home–to the stars.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Science Club Post: Starstuff

  1. I believe that we as a species will be able to find cure for cancer today, but not tomorrow. I believe that mutations are inevitable and with those mutations come improved adaptations and maybe in the distant future new organs and body parts. Therefore, I believe that new types of cancers will emerge and it might take some time to study and comprehend these new mutations. Cancer is a never ending battle that should never be given up and although cancer might never be fully cured, we will still be able to learn all about genetics and mutations which can lead to new and exciting doors in science. For now, I think we should learn as much as we can about cancer, genetics, mutations, and gene technology as possible and enjoy life by learning because although cancer is too unpredictable there are many other diseases and conditions that can be cured with this informations, which can lead to humanity living longer.

    Like

  2. Everything in a human’s life experience is connected to each other one way or another. One of the many things humans use as an instrument to communicate is music. In the first song we can imagine, hear, and understand the Earth’s rotating pattern in space around the sun, and in the second song we hear how David Bowie talks about a “black star” letting us infer that he was referring to a breast lesion he could of had. Another example is how the planets revolve around the sun, believed in the past to be consisting of musical intervals, creating musical harmony. We can also see a connection in a human’s disease. One of the longest fought disease known to man is cancer, born from changes found in our cells. We humans can neutralize it, even cure it, but in the end it will just be born again from changes in other cells, from mistakes. Also creating mutations. But getting back to the idea, all of these things are connected by humans, and then connect with science. With the main connection being that this all occurs from stardust. Just like evolution, stardust creates everything, including us and the planets, but started with DNA. And from there DNA started making copies of itself, reproducing and changing, causing evolution, and with it came cancer from mutations. From whichever way you look at it, everything is connected, and cancer even if cured one day, can still return in a different form, because we are not perfect.

    To understand more of how music is seen and compared with our solar system I went to this link http://www.crystalinks.com/harmonyspheres.html

    Like

  3. Everything in a human’s life experience is connected to each other one way or another. One of the many things humans use as an instrument to communicate is music. In the first song we can imagine, hear, and understand the Earth’s rotating pattern in space around the sun, and in the second song we hear how David Bowie talks about a “black star” letting us infer that he was referring to a breast lesion he could of had. Another example is how the planets revolve around the sun, believed in the past to be consisting of musical intervals, creating musical harmony. We can also see a connection in a human’s disease. One of the longest fought disease known to man is cancer, born from changes found in our cells. We humans can neutralize it, even cure it, but in the end it will just be born again from changes in other cells, from mistakes. Also creating mutations. But getting back to the idea, all of these things are connected by humans, and then connect with science. With the main connection being that this all occurs from stardust. Just like evolution, stardust creates everything, including us and the planets, but started with DNA. And from there DNA started making copies of itself, reproducing and changing, causing evolution, and with it came cancer from mutations. From whichever way you look at it, everything is connected, and cancer even if cured one day, can still return in a different form, because we are not perfect.
    To understand more of how music is seen and compared with our solar system I went to this link http://www.crystalinks.com/harmonyspheres.html

    Like

  4. Humans are equipped with the means to recognize patterns through observation since the moment we are born. It varies from patterns that we see that form familiar shapes, to sounds that we hear that form familiar rythyms. In both cases, we can find symbolism, something frequently used in works of fiction.

    One interesting way I think that the Solstice music video posted above utilizes symbolism is the moment when the video shows the sphere with the lights and the Earth itself (note that the Earth itself is not a perfect sphere but we comform ourselves by using a sphere to represent planets and other celestial bodies because, not only does it make it easier to picture them and learn about them, but in our society spheres have historically been a symbol for planets and other things). After looking up the lyrics to better understand the song, the lyrics state that we are “light-bearers recieving radiance from others”, which means that we are made of star-stuff (stars produce light) and “radiance” can refer to radiation, as in recieving radiation from other stars through various events. The Earth, and the sphere, both show the light that we radiate from major cities, which symbolizes our radiance (we also produce radio waves and other types of non-visible light that may reach another civilization someday).

    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bjork/solstice.html

    I think that music is an interesting way of human expresion not only because we are forming patterns with rythym, beats, pitch, and time; but also because,in many cases, we’ve put so much effort in music and we celebrate the musicians responsible for that tune, like the late David Bowie. Since I love to learn about the cosmos so much, i’ve come across two examples of patterns in space that resemble beats and rythym.

    The first is from comet 67-P/Churymov-Gerasimenko. In November 12, 2014, the Rosetta mission landed its probe Philae on this celestial body, making it the first time a man-made object has landed on a comet. Almost as soon as Philae started to scan its environment, it picked up some strange interactions between solar wind (made of plasma, a super heated gas) and the comet’s magnetic field. This is how it sounds at frequencies that the human ear can hear:

    Here is a cover of the Beatles’ “Across the Universe” by Andrew Huang. He created this cover with his voice and sounds entirely from the recording of comet 67P “singing”.

    Even if a pattern is not present, our minds might make us believe there is one. In September 2015, scientists at the LIGO observatory detected gravitational waves for the first time. In February 2016, they confirmed their existence. To put this discovery into a proper perspective, its as if we’ve discovered the electromagnetic spectrum (visible and non-visible light) again, except these waves are different and are caused by massive events in outer space, in this case by Black Holes.

    A small excerpt where Gaby Gonzalez explains them:

    To learn more, click this link below:

    All of these sounds produced by different events in nature can be interpreted in many different ways by the human beings. Personally, I think the universe itself is beautiful in its own way.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I believe it’s incredible how such tiny, minuscule changes in the genetic code can completely change how we function. The possibility of perfect, immortal or super humans sounds awesome and I would no doubt love to be a pioneer and be one of the first glow in the dark humans, but I believe this too is a very sensitive technology. If it happens to fall in the wrong hands, this technology could be used for great evil. Not only that but we are ultimately altering nature for our own convenience. Regardless if taken seriously and all precautions are taken, CRISPR has the potential to saves millions of lives and help us expand ourselves as a species.
    The following link shows what happened the first time a human was treated with CRISPR.

    http://gizmodo.com/the-crispr-gene-editing-tool-is-finally-being-used-on-h-1789042055

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s