iamtetsuo: (manga - vulture)
Shima Tetsuo [ 島 鉄雄 ] ([personal profile] iamtetsuo) wrote in [community profile] maskormenace2016-05-19 10:17 pm

007 - Video (possible acrophobia description warning)

[The feed clicks on to an extremely high view, focused partly on Tetsuo's face, the wind blowing his white hair erratically around. He's perched vulturelike on the support structures of one of the taller buildings in downtown Nonah, above the top floor, waiting for the wind to die down enough for him to talk.

And that's not even what he's here to talk about. Both hands are visible, and the camera is held very still; he's either got it perched on something or is holding it up with his powers.]

So, I've been thinking... We're all made out of elements and stuff, right? Carbon, nitrogen and water, things like that. All that boring shit they make you learn about in school.

[Apparently water's an element now. He pauses.]

But that's what I don't get. Ever since I really started to think about it... I keep coming back to it, you know? How we're all made out of a small list of ingredients...

[Sorry to anyone with a fear of heights - he reaches out to tap the comm and the camera moves dizzyingly downwards, providing a nice scene of lower building roofs, cars no larger than colorful beads, some trees... It pans out out to give a dramatic view of the rest of Nonah as he continues.]

But that same list makes all of this, too! What's the difference? How's something alive the same as stuff that can't be?
superposition: ((tight-lipped))


[personal profile] superposition 2016-05-21 07:12 pm (UTC)(link)
[Okay, on the one hand, Tetsuo getting interested in science is a wonderful thing! But on the other...]

Tetsuo, you do realize the question you're asking doesn't have a short answer? People have spent their entire lives trying to solve tiny subsets of that problem.
superposition: ((the implications))

[personal profile] superposition 2016-05-21 07:38 pm (UTC)(link)
[Nods] And it has one, of course. The cellular and chemical processes involved in the maintenance of life are well-documented. Most of the human genome has been mapped. But the fact is, the human body is an incredibly complex biochemical supersystem, and a lot remains to be discovered about it.

For instance - you know cells reproduce by dividing, producing two more-or-less identical cells of the same type. But an infant starts out as a single cell, as well. So what causes these cells to differentiate? Why does one cell become a heart, another a stomach, another a brain? And the answer to that is: we don't know yet.
superposition: ((assume i know something you don't))

[personal profile] superposition 2016-05-22 01:21 am (UTC)(link)
Ah-ah-ah. Operative word: "yet." Science is as much about what we don't know as what we do. What would be the point of investigating if we already had all the answers?
superposition: (So what difference does it make?)

[personal profile] superposition 2016-05-22 05:30 pm (UTC)(link)
[Sighs and rubs his forehead. Tetsuo, you are an exercise in exasperation.]

You're not listening. Nobody's going to just hand you the answers to life's mysteries on a silver platter. Anyone who claims they can is either wrong or trying to sell you something. So you research, you experiment. You find the answers for yourself, a little at a time.
superposition: ((ponders the gate))

[personal profile] superposition 2016-05-22 06:19 pm (UTC)(link)
[Forever. You will never run out of questions and the universe will never run out of ways to surprise you.]

Depends. With a scope that broad? Lifetimes, easily. Granted, lifetimes already have been spent on it, so there's no need to start from scratch. "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." (Isaac Newton said that. Brilliant man.)
superposition: ((i told you so))

[personal profile] superposition 2016-05-22 06:30 pm (UTC)(link)
All right, well, let's break it down a bit, shall we? You want to know how it is that the same elements make up living and nonliving things. Essentially, a comparison between two sets - [he illustrates two disjoint sets with his hands, a la lumping them together] - the set of all living things, and the set of all nonliving things. The union of these two sets contains just about everything in the universe. That's the scope of that one question.
superposition: ((william hartnell eat your heart out))

[personal profile] superposition 2016-05-22 06:57 pm (UTC)(link)
[Silence is an invitation to continue, right? He's gonna continue. WELCOME TO CLASS EVERYONE, TAKE YOUR SEATS AND OPEN TO PAGE YOU-BROUGHT-THIS-ON-YOURSELF]

Now, those who've come before us have already identified a key difference between the two groups. Living things are made mostly of proteins, synthesized from chemicals called amino acids, in the order prescribed by long strings of DNA. Nonliving things, by contrast, don't contain proteins or DNA unless they were once alive.

But even that distinction isn't fully satisfactory. Take viruses, for instance. They contain proteins and DNA, but they can't reproduce or metabolize nutrients without taking over another cell. So are they alive, or aren't they? And what about prions? Those are just proteins by themselves, but they can still reproduce in the body and cause cell damage like viruses. Look up "mad cow disease" if you're interested, fascinating stuff.

So how, exactly, do we define "life"? Where does the border lie between our two sets? It's fuzzy, and it further complicates the question.
superposition: (I think I can rely on you)

[personal profile] superposition 2016-05-22 07:09 pm (UTC)(link)
[Prions are infectious proteins he just said that]

Right. The common cold, HIV, Ebola, that whole group.
superposition: (And why?)

[personal profile] superposition 2016-05-22 08:08 pm (UTC)(link)
[here I'll show you]

It's not so much that we don't know. But there's more than one definition in use. They agree on most points, for practical purposes, and they all have theoretical merit - but there are still details they disagree upon, such as which side of the line viruses fall under.

Tell me, did you ever study the scientific method in school? [Not accusing or anything, he's just asking.]
superposition: ((william hartnell eat your heart out))

[personal profile] superposition 2016-05-25 06:20 pm (UTC)(link)
It's the general process behind scientific investigation. [He blocks off sections of air between his hands for each step, to show they're distinct.] Observation. Hypothesis. Experiment. Analysis. Theory. And back to observation. It's a cycle, you see. If a theory doesn't hold up against new observations, then it needs to be modified or replaced.

[holding up both index fingers] But here's the important thing. I want you to note this. The one step that isn't in there is fact. Only theory. We do call certain theories "scientific fact," but only when they're supported by an overwhelmingly large body of evidence. But even those could be overturned by a single conclusive proof that they're false. Are you following me?
superposition: (So let it be known)

[personal profile] superposition 2016-05-26 12:01 am (UTC)(link)
[Smirks. He kind of has an idea where Tetsuo is going with this.] You'd have your work cut out for you, with a target like that. But yes, that's the gist of it.
superposition: ((everything you remember))

[personal profile] superposition 2016-05-28 04:57 pm (UTC)(link)
Does it? All right, then. What is gravity?
superposition: ((the implications))

[personal profile] superposition 2016-05-28 06:13 pm (UTC)(link)
[Crude, but it's a start.]


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