So they're alive, right? Not so fast! Viruses don't breathe, or eat, or anything else that's usually an indicator of a living organism. And they can exist forever in the wild because, if you're not alive in the first place, you can't die. The one thing they do that usually defines a "living thing" is reproduce. And they can only do that inside an already-living cell.
Right now, scientists are flirting with the idea that viruses fall into the "alive" category, but there are also viroids, which are organisms (?) that are even simpler than viruses, and mostly affect plants. Even below viroids, we have prions. Prions are basically just messed-up proteins, and they're responsible for exotic diseases like Mad Cow Disease. Are those bastards alive? Nobody really knows! Which is a big deal for medicine, because prions are like some sort of horrible reverse-Predator: if they're not alive, we can't kill them.
Mayo ClinicThe same cannot be said of the brains they f**k up.
Scientist Martin Hanczyc has created some little chemical blobs that he calls "protocells," which move around, take in energy from the environment, and grow. Are they alive?
Oh, but this is all just fruitless rumination about tiny, invisible stuff. We don't need to stress about whether or not like, buffalo are alive. D-do we?
Detroit Public Library"Not if we have anything to say about it."
Scientists have found that the movement of buffalo herds can be pretty reliably predicted by the same rules that govern particles in a gas. And swarms of ants actually move very much like liquids. So to what degree is life that different to the inanimate crap that floats around us all day?
And holy crap, what if scientists find out that you behave strangely similar to like, an asteroid field? A gassy, lazy asteroid field? What does that mean for your life?
And on that note, we're going to go get high and stare at our own hands for a while.
Saikat Bhowmik is a kid who has grown a beard to look like a grown-up. He has a grown-up account at Twitter and a childish YouTube channel.
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