[First, let me say that these details come from the Sept., 2010 issue of Scientific American, the theme of which was “The End.”]

Living things “begin,” live, and die.  Here are maximum recorded lifespans (acc. to Sci. Am.) of 12 plants and animals (from a list of many more):

Mayfly                         1 day

Dragonfly                4 months

Mountain lion         15  years

Cat                          36 years

Queen termite        50 years

Horse                      62 years

Condor                    75 years

Elephant                  86 years

Human                   122 years

Bristlecone pine   1000’s of years

Jellyfish                  immortal

Hydra                     immortal

So what?    If you still want MORE go through the DOOR.


With this small array of data, what conclusions can we draw?

(1)  Every living plant and animal “starts,” lives, and “ends,” except for the 2 ocean creatures at the end (acc. to Sci. Am.).

(2)  For reasons not mentioned, these ocean creatures (Turritopsis nutricula for the jellyfish, but no scientific name given for the hydra) seem to have to have  whatever it takes to live forever.  “Forever,” of course, has to assume that the creature is not eaten, squashed, dried up, or blown to oblivion.  And that a finely tuned planet, in a finely tuned solar system, in a finely tuned galaxy, in a finely tuned universe stays the way it is.  And this includes that the sun doesn’t run out of gas.  (At last report, the tank is still half full).

(3)  “Finely tuned”?  What’s going on here?  Sorry, I don’t mean to wander, but here’s 2 things about this word that we’ll explore later:  (i) A “finely tuned” universe is one of the hottest ideas to come in the last several decades from scientific research that argues against a universe that somehow came from nothing and by series of random, fortunate totally “natural” accidents, eventually caused me to write, and you to read, these words.  (ii) If you write about such matters, don’t put a hyphen between “finely” and “tuned,” because an “ly” adverb modifying an adjective before a noun doesn’t call for this.  (Sorry, I once was an English teacher.)

(4)  The contrast between the lifespan of a mayfly and a bristlecone pine is startling and a marvelous thing to think about.  Both of these living organisms that are totally different from each other have similar parts (or molecules) in their DNA.  In one case a tiny creature flies fast and hard, reproduces, and quickly dies.  In the other an organism grows into giant size, standing forever (in our sense of time) in one place and reproducing itself in a totally different way.  (What’s DNA?  That’s a highly specific assembly of snakelike molecules that pass on genetic blueprints to build the “parts” to make the organism to be exactly what it should be.  Think of  a tub of Legos.  Somehow, a “hand,” a force, or “circumstances” reach into the same tub of Legos to build “snakelike” DNA for both the mayfly and the bristlecone pine.  It’s a bit more complicated than that…but that’s the basic idea.)

(5)  Now the brief set of data I’ve given doesn’t say it, but even a mayfly is a very, very complex life form.  Explaining the details of how inorganic (nonliving) molecules became living groups of molecules is…well…very, very complicated to discuss even in the world of science.  But so what.  Complicated things are enjoyable to think about and enrich our perception of what exists.

    (Using Scientific American, especially certain articles in biochemistry, was an important part of my doctoral research so it’s no stranger to me.  I highly recommend it for reading and summarizing research.)