Physics is killing us! I’m not joking….

Aging: a biology problem, or a question of physics?


Ageing is a fact of life, with which I’m sure everyone is familiar. When we consider the term ageing a few words which come to mind are illness, frailty, and probably death too. In the 1900s we had a sharp increase in the average life expectancy, mainly due to improved medicines, but we still die, meaning disease alone cannot be the reason for this.

As we age, the risks of damage accumulate daily, until something gives, and you die. Every day our body is utilizing various strict mechanisms to keep everything in working order, particularly in repairing DNA and ensuring that it is replicated correctly. Diseases such as cancer can arise from the erroneous replication of cells, and cancer kills lots of people. Then you may have also heard of telomeres, which shorten with every cell life cycle, until they become so short that our bodies can’t function further, and guess what? We die.

But no one had ever explained to me why this happens, or indeed why any of these cellular processes can go so wrong. The answer is physics. The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy is always increasing. As we know, the biological processes are strictly ordered, they have to be. I my calculations are right, there are around 2.112×10^21 individual elements to be constructed in a very particular order every day. If any of these end up being wrong, they can be repaired if noticed, and if not they can have varying degrees of severity for the body. Usually if something big begins to go wrong, it can trigger a cascade of negative effects which can become deadly. A descent into chaos perhaps…. Just as physics had intended with its evil way. The risk of this happening increases exponentially with age.

So next time you decide to toy with physics, a little experiment perhaps, some study even…. just remember physics kills!

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