Cosmos Episode 2: “Some of the Things Molecules Do”

Published March 16, 2014 by ashawnomy

Tonight’s episode was titled “Some of the Things That Molecules Do”.  Once again, I was glued to the set!  With an almost imminent snow storm and school closing tomorrow, I let my son stay up to watch it with me.  It’s amazing what he already knows about his world at age 5.  He was busying telling me that of course he knows about DNA.  “Everything has DNA.  Everything living now and everything that was once alive but is now dead, has DNA”, he says.  I love the Montessori education and I love his teachers.  He is a scientist in the making.

Tonight started with the domestication of dogs.  Beneficial to both species, but dogs changed dramatically.  Not sure that humans did.  The cuteness gene is also interesting to me.  Dogs promoted this gene because humans were more apt to trust and get close to cute dogs.  I had heard this before about babies.  They are cute so we find it easier to take care of them.  Life is interesting.

The episode continues to talk about how during one of the colder periods of the Ice Age we are currently experiencing.  I didn’t realize we were in the midst of one either.  As the arctic ice spread further south, the brown bear found herself living in a snow covered terrain.  She experienced a mutation that changed the color in her fur from brown to white.  Realizing the potential camouflaging properties, it eventually beat out the brown genetically and the polar bear appeared.  Pretty cool.

Then there is a part that talks about the evolution of the eye.  I found this part absolutely fascinating!  Essentially, the eye evolved from a light sensing spot in a bacterium, to what we carry around in our skull today.  What I found most interesting was the idea that most of this evolution occurred underwater and this is why our eyeball is mostly liquid.  It’s mostly fluid to correct for the bending of light in water, or refraction.  Once we stepped on land, it was not optimal, but, alas, it was too late to do anything about it.  The progression was done.  Weird, that we can’t correct for that in an evolutionary fashion. I am sure it is still possible, but it would take millions of years.  May still happen.

The next segment briefly discussed mass extinctions.  Sometime soon, I will write a separate piece about the Montessori Timeline of Life and its relevance to this show.  However, Neil primarily discussed the mass extinction that occurred at the end of the Permian period of the Paleozoic Era.  During this time, mass tectonic movements set off a long period of volcanic activity that blocked out the sun and starved the air of oxygen, while filling it with carbon dioxide.  This killed off 90% of life at that time!  It is amazing what life has bounced back from, unrelenting.

The show ended on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.  Neil talks about how Titan is similar to Earth because it is one of the few places we know of where it also rains.  It also has lakes of methane (if I remember correctly), which is also a rarity in our known universe (the lakes, not the methane).  The possibility of life is there on Titan but it wouldn’t look anything like what we have on Earth.  What would it look like? (Shawn looks off into the horizon, stroking an imaginary beard)

Next Week:  Episode 3:  “When Knowledge Conquered Fear”

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