September 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
Terra, or at least that’s what she referred to herself as, was separated from her sister at birth. Now she often (every second for her, every million or so years for us) wonders what became of her, but for the first billion years of her life, Terra existed without a single thought or dream or movement. Then one day, in the heat that remained from the fire of her birth, her first cell arose. This cell grew and divided, and grew and divided, and eventually transformed the poisonous gases which were suffocating Terra into clean oxygen. And at the age of 1 and a half billion, Terra took her first breath of clean air. Terra still had no nervous system to speak of, no method of transporting information from one side of her face to another. However, a significant period of Terra’s development took place when she was 4 billion years old. This is about the time in her species when tissues begin to form when cells come together. At first they merely existed with little organization, but after only a few million years they had discovered the efficiency of specialization, and formed groups together which benefitted not only themselves, but Terra also. These groups, analogous to our organs, had a great range of functions. Some continued to replenish Terra’s oxygen, allowing other organs to continue to thrive. Most importantly, however, were the tissues which began to transport information across Terra’s body. These tissues were still rather small, only about 5 to 6 of our feet in height, but tremendous in numbers. At first this exchange of information was slow, limited by the movement of one tissue to another. Nevertheless, like the electrical impulses of our axons, information was moving. And Terra began thinking. Although still a child, she longed for her sister she was launched from all that time ago, and she became bent on finding her. Her tissues became more adept at transporting information. Some tissues became specialized to produce tissue carrying molecules which could move substantially faster than before. Terra could think faster, only taking thousands of years to make decisions and take action. Eventually, fibers were built allowing tissue communication without any movement at all. Terra’s curiosity grew, and at 4.5 billion years of age, she extended her arm out to the nearest member of her species she could see. After 3 days, she reached her newfound friend only to find a body as motionless as she was for her first billion years of life. While her disappointment grew, so did her brain. Complex networks now connected most of the tissues in her body. This complexity had evolved a level of consciousness which we as humans might be familiar with. In her loneliness she resolved to continue her search, and felt an emotion which I could only describe as “hope” that her long lost sister was doing the same.