Wednesday, May 25, 2016

It's Alive! It's Alive! It's A...Oh. Never Mind.

Although determining what is and isn't alive can have a lot of gray areas, you'd ordinarily say that something which could move around, eat other somethings and leave behind the by-products of the meal would fill the bill.

Not so fast, say researchers at Japan's Doshisha University. Droplets of a common surfactant (a kind of chemical that reduces surface tension and makes it easier for stuck substances to separate -- like detergents) will scoot around after iodide ions and leave a chemical trail behind them. The surfactant is called didodecyldimethylammonium bromide, or DDAB.

Its small clumps or vescicles would usually break apart quickly, until researcher Akihisa Shioi and his team added a certain chemical to the mix, which the DDAB "feeds" on to maintain its life.

Other scientists who observe the phenomena point out that the DDAB acts like it's alive only under very specific conditions. Actual life, on the other hand, has proven to adapt to a wide range of conditions. So while DDAB will probably help scientists understand some dimensions of life at its most basic and irreducible levels, it's still just a chemical reaction pursuing its own path of consumption, blind movement in service to that consumption and excretion.

So it could help us understand both the Trump and Clinton campaigns, at least.


fillyjonk said...

DDAB is exceptionally close to a "rule" on one of the internet boards I frequent, which is acronymized as DBADB. The first DB is "Don't be" and the last one....well, you can probably come up with what "DB" could stand for that we wouldn't want our fellow posters to be.

Sadly, though, I think the "DBADB" ship has long sailed on this year's political campaign.

Friar said...

Most certainly.