Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Pattern and change

This week’s lab shows that pattern and change are concepts important not only to the field of biology, but to the creation of life itself. When building with legos, unexpected changes and patterns occurred. As a group, we all agreed that we gave life to the non-life by playing around with the legos, a concept we learned to be known as abiogenesis. We built monomers, “molecules that can be bonded to other identical molecules to form polymers” (Google). Polymers are “substances that have molecular structure consisting chiefly of large number of similar united bonded together” (Google).

To begin the building process, some of us started off by creating a small molecule that acted as monomers with two 2x2 beige or gray Lego pieces and three 4x4 pieces of any color. We designed this monomer in a symmetrical way with two of the 4x2 pieces going vertically, one of the 4x2 pieces going horizontally, and the two 2x2 pieces connecting them at the intersections. Then, we repeated this process 27 more times and combined these molecules to create a polymer. After creating the polymer, we observed that there was a repeating pattern that emerged from the connecting the beige and gray 2x2 pieces. Also along the edges, there was a jagged pattern formed by the 4x2 pieces. The purpose of this lab for us to abstractly represent how individual monomers can form together to create a polymer.

During this lab everyone had a unique monomer. Everyone went their own way. For some, they chose to use a intricate pattern while others chose a simple pattern.  There were no common patterns between the polymers. The color between monomers were random. This was due to a lack in either the same color legos or a lack in time needed to separate legos base off color. The block sizes range from 2x2, 3x3, and 4x4. The final dimension for each polymer was different for everyone in the group. Some polymers were flat and linear while others were tall. However, there were a few exceptions that contain both features.  


For most, the final polymer was symmetrical due to a continuation in their original pattern. But for others, their final polymers were different. Some polymer were asymmetrical and branched out into unpredictable shapes and sizes, and others, upon closer inspection, followed a definite and consistent pattern. Some of the polymers branched upward. Others branched outward, so there was a variation between short and tall structures. One of the polymers had sections of helical forms spiraling upward from the base. One polymer became a large stable structure with a lot of hollow space in the middle, while another formed a solid wall of legos, with no gaps.

As previously said, in lecture, we discussed the theory of abiogenesis: the idea that life came from non-life. This is based on the idea that the conditions of the earth prior to life were suitable for molecules to build an environment conducive to life. This life would have came about from the sun scattering molecules until ultimately oxygen was made. In lab, we were able to explore different variations of molecules--we made small groups of atoms into larger molecules. Putting these molecules together, we each made unique molecules, and we each branched our molecules together. What we discovered was that these branches can take drastically different shapes. For example, they can be straight or angled, rigid or flexible, or horizontal and vertical. From our lab, we can begin to imagine what it would be like for molecular evolution to take place, but as we thought about life, we were able to realize how creative we are as human beings.

Irrefutably, this week’s lab also demonstrates that complexity arises from simple things. We took simple, small and colorful legos to build complex, big and distinct monomers and polymers. From building upwards, downwards and sideways, patterns tended to arise on their own at different angles or even straight lines. Such interaction proves that molecules sometimes have a “mind of their own.” For example, attempting to build almost identical polymers was almost impossible. Does this mean that no polymer is exactly the same? In our opinion, we would say no because of what we discussed in last week’s lectures of how electrons get disrupted and fly out of orbit because of ultraviolet energy--causing the chemistry of the molecules to be altered and joined in random ways. Additionally, in this lab we compared the polymers to how RNA takes physical and chemical environments to make biological environments. This is due to the mechanistic theory, a concept that we experienced various times during this week’s lab. At least for some of us in the group, it was hard to keep the structure from falling apart. How come this happened to some and not to others? It depends on how the polymers were built and how strong their foundations at the bottom were (even though there is no top or bottom.) In both biology and in life, nothing is exactly identical. But there are patterns in the living world that demonstrate the origins of life and their role to their surrounding environments.

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