Imagina (i sé que és molt imaginar) que el primer dia de classe a l’Institut, en la primera classe de Biologia que has tingut mai, el professor, abans de dir bon dia, de demanar els noms, de mirar suspicaçment els alumnes, comença així:

Your cells are a country of ten thousand trillion citizens, each devoted in some intensively specific way to your overall well-being. There isn’t a thing they don’t do for you. They let you feel pleasure and form thoughts. They enable you to stand and stretch and caper. When you eat, they extract the nutrients, distribute the energy, and carry off the wastes but they also remember to make you hungry in the first place and reward you with a feeling of well-being afterward so that you won’t forget to eat again. They keep your hair growing, your ears waxed, your brain quietly purring. They manage every corner of your being. They will jump to your defense the instant you are threatened. They will unhesitatingly die for you—billions of them do so daily. And not once in all your years have you thanked even one of them. So let us take a moment now to regard them with the wonder and appreciation they deserve.

I que, abans que hagis aconseguit fer pestanyejar els ulls, continua així:

If you could visit a cell, you wouldn’t like it. Blown up to a scale at which atoms were about the size of peas, a cell itself would be a sphere roughly half a mile across, and supported by a complex framework of girders called the cytoskeleton. Within it, millions upon millions of objects—some the size of basketballs, others the size of cars—would whiz about like bullets. There wouldn’t be a place you could stand without being pummeled and ripped thousands of times every second from every direction. Even for its full-time occupants the inside of a cell is a hazardous place. Each strand of DNA is on average attacked or damaged once every 8.4 seconds—ten thousand times in a day—by chemicals and other agents that whack into or carelessly slice through it, and each of these wounds must be swiftly stitched up if the cell is not to perish.

Per acabar d’aquesta manera:

When cells are no longer needed, they die with what can only be called great dignity. They take down all the struts and buttresses that hold them together and quietly devour their component parts. The process is known as apoptosis or programmed cell death. Every day billions of your cells die for your benefit and billions of others clean up the mess. Cells can also die violently—for instance, when infected—but mostly they die because they are told to. Indeed, if not told to live—if not given some kind of active instruction from another cell— cells automatically kill themselves. Cells need a lot of reassurance.

Ara deixa d’imaginar i torna al llibre: Tema 13, La cèŀlula. La cèŀlula es compon de membrana, citoplasma i nucli. La membrana…

(excerpts from Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything)

Universally ignored

October 27, 2009

ACADEMY. After explaining about the long time plate tectonics had to wait until it finally got accepted by the mainstream geology science, Bryson ends the chapter with the following comment:

Interestingly, oil company geologists had known for years that if you wanted to find oil you had to allow for precisely the sort of surface movements that were implied by plate tectonics. But oil geologists didn’t write academic papers; they just found oil.

ROSSI. Quina és l’expressió que mai no fan servir ni en Biaggi, ni en Sete, ni en Lorenzo? Vale.

SALUTACIONS. Quant més sonor el bes, més fals el sentiment?

FREEDOM What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Freedom. It sounds trite, but without it, what’s the point of life? Almost everything else is incidental to the basic right of a newborn human being to grow up to enjoy life on this planet limited only by the moderation required to mutually accommodate others (Brett Lock, from the normblog profiles).

Si hi estàs d’acord, ets un liberal clàssic.


When the crust reached the end of its journey at the boundary with continents, it plunged back into the Earth in a process known as subduction. That explained where all the sediment went. It was being returned to the bowels of the Earth. It also explained why ocean floors everywhere were so comparatively youthful. None had ever been found to be older than about 175 million years, which was a puzzle because continental rocks were often billions of years old. Now Hess could see why. Ocean rocks lasted only as long as it took them to travel to shore. It was a beautiful theory that explained a great deal. Hess elaborated his ideas in an important paper, which was almost universally ignored.

Bryson of course.

Planck (Max)

June 10, 2009

Planck was often unlucky in life. His beloved first wife died early in 1909, and the younger of his two sons was killed in the First World War. He also had twin daughters whom he adored. One died giving birth. The surviving twin went to look after the baby and fell in love with her sister’s husband. They married and two years later she died in childbirth. In 1944, when Planck was eighty-five, an Allied bomb fell on his house and he lost everything —papers,diaries, a lifetime of accumulations. The following year his surviving son was caught in a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler and executed.

From Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything