02 March 2012

the long road to a cell

Check out this truly amazing representation of the molecular machinery at work within each of our cells.
One thing that helps understanding these processes is to remember that at these scales, molecules are knocking around at much more than a million times per second - so it isn't that the right molecules miraculously find and fix themselves exactly where they belong in order to perform these very complex tasks (as these depictions sort of suggest), but rather that they are perpetually colliding at incredible speeds, and that it is only the (relatively) rare collision that is successful enough to allow the process to move forward.

All these random accidents accumulate, with the basic rule that what can persist, does, and on larger timescales seemingly miraculous complexity emerges.

Still, judging by the glimpse we get from this video, it's no wonder that evolution (a process that works with that same basic rule from above) took longer with these inner workings of a cell (2.8 billion years) than all the further developments on the tree of life combined (1 billion years)

.. give or take.