indistinguishable from Magic - Arthur C Clark. ('invented' the satelite)
“That the Suns up there are made up of the things down here”, quipped Richard Feynman.
I would agree with Feynman’s suggestion, but since a few thousand dollars are going into a gosh damn summer class, I better have another answer. My answer to the greatest discovery is this – it’s the idea that the atoms in the air, in the concrete, and in ourselves are intimately related.
“Yes easy enough” – No, not easy enough. That idea ran absolutely positively counter to the dogma in Chemistry to the men of the 1850s. They suggested that what allows photosynthesis and the ability for us to turn our food into poop was a special force – a life force (they called it vital force). It’s a fair idea. Look around you at life – look at breast milk – how’d that get in there? Some force must’ve allowed the female to turn her foodstuff into life nourishment. Interestingly, the very class I’m enrolled in involves this topic – those vital, majestic, vital force created molecules were deemed “organic”, the others “inorganic”.
So I’m effectively saying out of the airplane (a boring name, because at first people didn’t know what to call it so they just went with ‘a flying machine), the car (prior known as the ‘horseless carriage’) and the steam engine, the greatest invention/discovery is an idea about how life is created from once dead inanimate matter. This is trivial until you consider this; the drugs that people take for Alzeimers (or Parkinsons) are precursors to another molecule, which an enzyme will react with in the body changing it into the desired product. So basically molecules we mess around with and alter, are taken up in the body as its own. Without this ability to create ‘life molecules’, drugs for the brain, disease, whatever, are blocked. People forget that the drug active in Cannabis led to a whole new line of receptors, called cannabinoid receptors. Only after the discovery was it found that these are actually intended for other molecules, endogenous opiods – or endorphins (the drug target discovery came before the body’s own!)
Anyway, next time you consider the specialness of life matter, consider Viagra, drugs, the ability to replace vital organs by growing stem cells from that organ region – this is the golden road opened up after the life force idea was shunned, and that was only 150 years ago.
Imagine what’s hiding.