Exothermic and Endothermic Vs Exergonic and Endergonic

One of the most common things I come across when working with students studying for the MCAT, PCAT, DAT, AP, and college level chemistry courses is understanding the differences between endergonic and exergonic vs. endothermic and exothermic.

Before we get into the differences lets point out what they have in common: energy is going somewhere. In both thermic and ergonic processes energy is either going in or out. The major difference being what kind of energy is moving in and out, and the details of that energy movement.

It from bit philosophy: a simplified explanation

The physicist Jon Wheeler is often credited for the ingenious reductionist framework known as “it from bit” philosphy. This idea reduces redundant terminology such as force, attraction, repulsion, and etc. to the more efficient framework of “interaction”. This idea is extremely powerful in that it can solve serious problems such as the infinite regression problem, as well as help simplify the complexity that accompanies trying to learn about living things. To explain the basic idea of “it from bit” philosophy I will use a common everyday example from physics: a baseball batter hitting a home run.

INTERESTING THINGS: Physics of Baseball
image credit to the physics of baseball at U of Illinois

How complexity science can change our healthcare system

The science of complexity and lays a conceptual foundation for understanding “complex adaptive systems”. What all complex adaptive systems have in common is that they are all bound by the same set of physical laws. Their “behavior” i.e. growth, maintenance, and death can all be described using the same set of mathematical relationships. These systems (animals, plants, ecosystems, and etc.) are the most productive and functionally effective systems known to man. Unfortunately, our healthcare system has not been bound by the same physical laws and mathematical relationships as other complex adaptive systems. Thus, it has not been able to implement the same mechanisms that our ecosystems and cells have in order to obtain optimization in their ability to perform a function. This is most blatantly highlighted by the fact that 100,000400,000 (depending on the reference source) Americans die each year due to medical errors. The integration of the science of complexity into medicine, nursing, allied, and public health is one course of action that would eliminate many of the issues currently present in our healthcare system.

Paving the way for regenerative medicine

Plants, Salamanders, and Humans

Almost every class of life on earth has some member who can regenerate a lost limb, tail, or appendage. Some Salamanders can regrow their limbs after amputation, some Lizards can regrow their tails, Zebrafish can regrow lost fins, etc. This incredible regenerative ability has been the subject of both intensive medical research and science fiction for the last century.

Even more impressive than regrowing an amputated limb is the fact that almost all plants have the capacity to regrow severed leaves. Some plants even have the incredible regenerative ability to have one of their severed leaves grow roots and even into an entire separate plant.

The ability to regenerate lost body parts can be observed all throughout the plant and animal kingdom with one exception: mammals.

Immortality is biochemically possible

A look at aging in the context of the 2nd law of Thermodynamics

Biology is a relatively young science, still in its infancy. Unlike Physics or Chemistry much of Biology is reliant upon qualitative theories to explain how things work. Almost all of the major breakthroughs in the biological sciences over the past 150 years have been merely discovering details of biological systems. These useful descriptive facts include the discovery of DNA as the genetic material of the cell, the central dogma of molecular biology, the human genome project, and etc. These are descriptive facts, not theoretical explanations. Biology as a science has yet to reach the point where there is a full and complete mechanistic theoretical framework to explain everything that happens within a biological system.

Genomic imprinting and the parent of origin effect.

Placental Mammals and Marsupials are the only class of life on this planet that cannot reproduce asexually. Insects, Reptiles, Amphibians, and etc. all have some member of their class that can reproduce on their own without fertilization. What it is that makes Mammals and Marsupials unique in this aspect, is a fascinating area of epigenetics known as genomic imprinting.

How to turn data into knowledge: 10 conceptual frameworks that are universal to the pedagogy and communication of biology.

10 conceptual frameworks that make learning easier.

Students majoring in Biology or Biochemistry frequently voice their feedback to me on how dissatisfied they are with their area of study. The most common complaint comes with the viewpoint that biology is just memorization with a little bit of reasoning. Many students upon graduating do not feel like a “real” scientist, capable of critical thinking and having a successful career taking on challenging work. It is my long held belief that this stems from biochemistry and biology having an inherent lack of a strong quantitative theoretical framework, the gold standard of modern science. This lack of a theoretical framework is the primary culprit for the structure of higher education in biology and biochemistry being primarily focused on mindlessly memorizing facts and figures instead of asking questions or even utilizing central themes that connect one idea to another.