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About Dark Universe main content.
The Hayden Planetarium Space Show explores cosmic mysteries including dark matter and dark energy. Discovering the Universe Prelude Transcript. Dark Universe Pre Show Transcript. Dark Universe Space Show Transcript. Close What are you looking for? The electron of row 2 is performing the same electrical function for the proton as the antiparticle of row one performed for matter, but of course the electron is not the antiparticle of the proton.
This difference emphasizes the essential asymmetry of matter and the role of leptons as alternative charge carriers for the baryons - alternative in that they are not antiparticles but nevertheless carry some of the charges of antiparticles. The function of alternative charge carriers is crucial in that they allow the possibility of charge balancing and charge conservation without the annihilation reactions of antiparticles. In the third cell of row 2 the "group" function we have the helium nucleus, the product of the nuclear fusion of 2 protons and 2 neutrons.
This is the second element of the periodic table, which because of its extreme stability becomes the preferred building block, or "brick", of the nucleosynthetic pathway in stars. This pathway, with the aid of supernova explosions, builds the remainder of the elements of the periodic table. Because the alpha particle "brick" is the energetically favored building block of nucleosynthesis, elements with even atomic numbers numbers of protons are typically more abundant than elements with odd atomic numbers. Carbon is the second major product of the nucleosynthetic pathway after helium.
Both helium and carbon are perfect nuclear resonances of the 4x3 fractal pattern. Helium is composed of 4 nucleons each of 3 quarks; carbon is composed of 3 alpha particles helium nuclei , each of 4 nucleons. The carbon nucleus is therefore a triple 4x3 resonance the baron itself is the first resonance , unique among the atoms of the periodic table. The electron shell of carbon contains yet another 4x3 resonance, with four valence electrons in its third shell, the only atom with both a nuclear and an electron shell 4x3 resonance. We will discuss the carbon resonances further in the next two levels.
Protons and neutrons can join together in high-energy fusion reactions in the center of stars, initiating the nucleosynthetic pathway, building the compound nuclei of the heavy elements. As each proton is added to the nucleus, a compensatory electron is added to the electron shell, balancing the overall electric charge of the atom. The heavy, high-energy, stable and "conservative" nucleus holds the atom together, preserving its identity and integrity, while the light, low energy, changeable and "social" electron shell permits temporary interactions with other atoms.
It is this special combination of nuclear stability with chemical flexibility that gives our macroscopic world both diversity, solidity, and a certain degree of reliability. The electron shell provides a low energy pathway for atoms to interact; nuclear interactions are at least a million times more energetic than those of the electron shell, with a correspondingly high energy barrier which must be overcome to initiate them hence fusion occurs naturally only in the "Big Bang", supernovas, and the interiors of stars.
Reducing the energy barrier to interaction is a crucial step toward the higher levels of information building. The 92 naturally occurring elements of the periodic table are the product of row 2. Of these, at least 25 are known to be required for life, and doubtless every one finds a use somewhere in Nature.
Humans have accessed this atomic rung of the information ladder through the discovery of the Periodic Table of the Elements, and again using the particle accelerator, by producing nearly 2 dozen new elements heavier than uranium, the man-made "transuranic" elements. In addition, we have harnessed the fission reaction to produce electricity and are attempting to do the same with fusion.
Fission reactions are widely used in medicine and in the engine-rooms of warships; both fission and fusion bombs are notoriously overabundant in the weapons arsenals of the U. Step three is the realm of molecules and chemistry, inorganic and organic; the formation of compounds, crystals, and polymers; and every type of interaction between the electron shells of atoms.
The Information Pathway
The electron shell develops as a series of approximately concentric orbits of complex geometry, and it is typically only the outer orbits which interact with one another. These interactions can take place only if there are vacant positions in the fixed geometric patterns of the outer orbitals which can be filled by sharing electrons with another atom which also has vacant positions.
This type of chemical bonding is called "covalent", in reference to the shared orbital relationship, and provides a strong and stable bond, which is featured in the second cell of row 3. We place molecular carbon in the third cell of row 3. Amazingly, in addition to carbon's triple nuclear 4x3 resonance pattern, it also contains a 4x3 resonance in its electron shell, having 4 bonding sites in the third electron shell 1S2, 2S2, 2P2. Carbon is the only atom in the periodic table with both a nuclear and electron shell 4x3 resonance.
Carbon's molecular tetrahedral bonding structure creates yet another 4x3 resonance - a tetrahedron being composed of 4 triangles. Hence carbon contains five full 4x3 resonances, three in its nucleus, one in its electron shell, and one in its molecular bonding pattern for example, diamond , a most remarkable atom, with a most remarkable potential. In the fourth cell of row 3 we have crystals, and especially the organic polymers of carbon. It is of course the ability of the carbon atom, with its four bonding sites, to bond with itself in tetrahedra, chains, branching chains, rings, spirals, and many other forms of great length, molecular weight, and apparently infinite variety in their combinations, permutations, reflections, polymers and isomers, that sets the stage for the information explosion of organic or carbon chemistry, the molecular basis of the complex information systems of life.
For example, the nuclear fusion of hydrogen with carbon can produce only the element nitrogen with an isotope or two; the chemical combinations between the electron shells of hydrogen and carbon, however, produces the immense class of the hydrocarbons, with billions of chemically distinct isomers. This is an especially striking example of how by lowering the energy level and barrier for interaction, the possibilities for information building are greatly magnified.
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Humans have accessed this rung of the information ladder through the sciences of crystallography, inorganic and organic chemistry, and our quantum mechanical theories of the electron shell, its orbitals, energy states, and interactions. In row 4 we enter the realm of functional, cyclic chemical systems, prebiotic "organic" chemistry, including the replicating molecule of RNA. Organic chemistry is characterized by covalent bonding "hard bonds" between carbon atoms which build strong, stable chains or skeletal structures; these chains provide anchor points for functional chemical groups which interact with each other through weaker, "soft" bonds.
The geometry, shape, size, symmetry, and configuration of molecules is crucially important to their biological properties, and these weak bonding forces are critically important to this level of information building.
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Again, reducing the energetic threshold of interaction is very important to the diversity of possible interactions, and hence also to building the information content of systems such interactions may produce. These soft and flexible molecular bonds, crucial to the complex forms of organic and biochemistry, we place in cell 2. Replication is the translation of the ability of carbon atoms to bond with their own kind including the general phenomenon of crystal formation and growth , into the ability of carbon based macromolecules to bond with plus replicate their own kind.
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What produces crystal growth on one level produces replication on the next. It is a stage transition to a higher level of both organization and information, and the direct projection of nuclear, electron shell, and crystal bonding patterns into the realm of macro-molecular interaction.
The pathway is directly through the 4x3 structure of carbon, which as we have seen, contains a 4x3 resonance in its nucleus, electron shell, and tetrahedral bonding pattern. The covalent bonding of carbon with itself into stable branching chains and cyclic structures provides attachment points for functional groups involving other elements.
These in turn can form "soft" hydrogen bonds with each other, producing macro-molecular chains of cyclic or periodic character, leading directly to the 4x3 resonant structure of RNA. Water itself, the "universal solvent", also produces a tetrahedral molecular bond; the combination of water and organic chemistry is literally pregnant with the potential for life. In RNA, we again find a structural expression of the 4x3 "metric". RNA consists of 4 nucleotides adenine, guanine, uracil, cytosine each composed of 3 functional groups - a nitrogenous base, a sugar, and a phosphate group in DNA uracil is replaced by thymine.
It is this 4x3 structure of RNA which is the centerpiece of row 4, cell 3. Row four is the chemical threshold of life. Here we find carbon interacting with a variety of other elements to form the complex molecules which are capable of playing a role in future living systems. What is special about these molecules is that they do not simply link up with each other in inert crystalline combinations, they actually perform work of some sort, such as the capture and processing of energy; replication; the formation of defensive perimeters; etc.
Why this sort of chemical activity should arise at all is certainly a mystery, but is perhaps more comprehensible if we consider 1 the incredible variety of organic molecules and their possible combinations, permutations, and interactions; 2 the incredible numbers of these molecules in the primitive oceans of the Earth; 3 the immense length of time available for the exploration of possibilities; 4 the steady energy cycles of day and night, the mixing action of wind, waves, and tides, the alternation of wet and dry conditions, the rhythmic cycles of Sun and Moon stirring the reaction vessel of Earth's oceans; 5 the energy inputs of lightning and Earth's magnetic field, and the steady rain of chemical inputs from outer space - under these circumstances the very improbable becomes the very likely.
It is as if one person could buy all the tickets to the lottery. However, there is more order in this system than random chance. This is not analogous to the situation of millions of monkeys typing on typewriters until, just by blind luck, one of them produces a Shakespearian sonnet. The key ingredient of life is the replication of molecular systems. Without the ability to replicate, any advance in the information content of a system is lost, as no matter how sophisticated it may be, it will eventually be degraded and a new beginning will have to be made.
With replication, however, information can be stored, retrieved, and through the evolutionary process, advanced. We really do not have to concern ourselves with anything other than the evolution of a replicating molecule which also conserves its own information, since once this is achieved, this molecule will compete with its own copies for resources, and natural selection and evolution even at the molecular level will generate all the rest of the complexity.
Because the 4x3 structure of carbon is projected into the 4x3 structure of RNA, the generation of this replicating molecule is not a matter of pure chance, and therefore neither is the generation of life.
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The intersection of the 4x3 universal fractal algorithm with a replicating molecular structure RNA - DNA means that life is common in the Universe - a fixed probability of organic chemistry. RNA links and catalyzes chemical systems which acquire, store, and degrade energy, systems which may well have evolved in response to the diurnal cycle. The emergent property of "metabolic" RNA is replication. The evolution of a replicative system from a "metabolic" mechanism for energy and enzyme transfer is helpful in terms of understanding the thermodynamic origin of, or pathway to, reproduction: replication may be the accidental byproduct of a 4x3 molecular structure originally involved in energy capture, or a related "metabolic" role - a chemical cycle driven, primed, or "pumped" by abiotic energy sources such as the diurnal cycle of the Sun.