From the ongoing series, ‘A song of Blood and Air.’
BO stands for Before Oxygen.
Let there be light; and there was light.
Let there be abundant highly reduced organic compounds in the menu under “hot oceanic soup” for the hungry prokaryotic cells; and there it was.
Let these compounds deplete slowly as a punishment for developing metabolic laziness in these cells.
How dare they stick to such simple pathways for energy production?
Life is about rising to the occasion and evolving from tough times.
Hence the menu started becoming less appetizing; the hot soup getting thinner with time.
But these prokaryotes fought hard and smart against the tide.
Some of them emerged out of the darkness into the light.
“We have suffered enough from this long famine. After long deliberations we have unanimously agreed that the Sun is our best bet as it will not forsake us. There is no doubt that making our own food will involve working hard but we need to continue our Strain Name. Henceforth we shall carry out photosynthesis,” proclaimed Head Chef Purple Green.
Billions of years ago, tiny chefs had started doing something we have never been able to replicate till date. Making sugar from light.
Millions of years ago, we started engaging ourselves in something we still shamelessly do. Stealing ready made sugar.
What makes sugar; reduced organic compounds so valuable?
Organic compounds are substances with carbon and hydrogen, oftentimes oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, halogens and some metals making special appearances.
The textbook definition of reduction that all of you will undoubtedly know is that greater the number of hydrogen atoms associated to carbon greater the extent of reduction.
It still does not answer why these compounds are energetically valuable.
Head Chef Purple Green is certainly not stupid. There is a reason why sugar was anointed as the Chosen One.
Picture a a cloud of bonding electrons between carbon and hydrogen. Either carbon is selfish with the electrons when hydrogen atoms are around it or hydrogen atoms are pushovers. The latter seems more likely. On the other hand Carbon is not selfish when Lord Oxygen is around. They willingly let Lord Oxygen romance with the electrons; literally redefining the phrase romance in the ‘air’.
However some beg to differ and maintain that carbon is very selfish and instead, coerced by Lord Oxygen, into spending lesser time with the electrons.
Whatever the love saga may be, we benefit from carbon’s apparent selfishness around hydrogen atoms. A denser electron cloud around carbon has lower entropy than a more dispersed cloud and hence reduced forms of carbon are high energy molecules.
If you have lost your way because I used the word entropy, you can refer to an article I wrote a few months back titled, “To know or not to know, that is the question.”
At some point I should stop typing. Your highly evolved nervous system should be able to figure out what Head Chef Purple Green figured out a billennium ago.
Without a doubt, the Award of ‘Chef of the Billenium’ goes to: Head Chef Purple Green and Head Chef Cyano.