The Recipe For Life…

The Recipe For Life…

[MUSIC] [APPLAUSE] Welcome to Ph. Deeelicious! I’m your host,
Joe, and today in the primordial kitchen, we’re
cooking up life. I’m hungry already, let’s get started! [APPLAUSE] You can’t have life without water. A touch of carbon! Mmm, nitrogen! A little salt of the Earth. Calcium, strong bones! Just a touch of phosphorous. That’s enough! What about all those trace elements? A little
spice of life! Bam! Bam! BAM! BAM!! Let’s mix that all together… [MUSIC] Mmm, tangy! We’re gonna pour that into a baking
dish pop that baking dish into a 350 degree oven for about three and a half billion years. And here’s one we prepared earlier! [APPLAUSE] That would be pretty cool, but cooking up
life is a little more complicated than following a recipe. And living things don’t come with
nice, convenient ingredients labels, like the packages we buy at the store.
But what if they did? Huh, I didn’t know that pineapples have 3-methylthio-prio-pria-pineapple-o-ate Those chemicals have strange names, but they’re
nothing to be afraid of. They’re just the stuff of life, the molecules that build us,
make us move, store energy and information, even the ones letting you watch and think
about this video. And that’s not even the whole list. If we
add in all the nucleic acids, lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, and also all those minor players
like vitamins and cofactors, things like… I’m not even gonna try that one. Point is,
in the recipe for life, the ingredients list for you and me could fill a whole cookbook. But what if we put you in a molecular blender,
and converted all your complex chemicals into one human molecule?
This is what your chemical formula looked like at birth: Now, in ancient times, scholars believed everything
in the universe was made of just four elements: Earth, water, fire, and air. Sorry, Captain
Planet. “You dirty, back-stabbing son of a birch!” Today we know it’s a little more complicated
than that: living things are made up of cells, cells are made of molecules, they’re made
of even smaller atoms… BUT that old idea turns out to be sort of right. Altogether, 97% of the mass of all living
matter is made of just four chemical elements. You’re no exception. An average-sized person
has 16 kg of carbon inside them, more nitrogen than in 400 liters of urine. Converted to
gas, you hold enough oxygen to fill the volume of 6 elephants, enough hydrogen to fill the
volume of a blue whale. Add in a few more elements, and that’s nearly
ALL of what makes up nearly everything. Different organisms tweak the percentages a bit, like
how our bones are full of calcium, or how plants use boron in their cell walls, but
all in all life seems to work a lot like Taco Bell, crafting an infinite menu from the same
handful of ingredients. But this barely scratches the surface of the
periodic table. Out of 98 naturally-occurring elements, just over 30 of them are known to
be essential to some form of life on Earth. Why so few? Because not all elements are created
equal. There’s a reason we are “carbon-based
life forms” and all of our living chemistry is “organic”.
Many creation stories say life was molded from clay, from the Earth itself, yet our
planet itself doesn’t actually contain much carbon. But there IS another element in Earth’s
crust a thousand times more abundant than carbon, and which, like carbon, has four outer
electrons, and sits just below it on the periodic table.
Why aren’t we silicon-based? Carbon’s special chemistry lets it bond
in a variety of different shapes, building on itself and other atoms, like nitrogen and
sulfur and phosphorous, in long chains and branches, everything from DNA to amino acids
to sugars to fats. Silicon can’t do that. Slap two oxygens on a carbon, and you get
a gas that plants can eat. Combine two oxygens with silicon, and you get sand. Good luck
breathing that. We’ve figured out other ways to put silicon to good use, but it’s
carbon’s variety that led to the variety of life, and right now, there’s no reason
to believe that life in other parts of the universe would be built on a different backbone. Rather than dirt, early life was born in ancient
seas, which is why the hydrogen and oxygen from water dominate our ingredient list. When
you’re born, you’re more than 75% liquid, but we all dry out as we get older. Muscle
contains more water than fat, our skin is almost two-thirds liquid, even our bones are
more than 30% wet stuff. In our body, that water is combined with a
mix of ions like potassium, sodium, and chloride, the salts that keep our cells from collapsing,
and send electrical signals through our nervous system. We are are a salty sea, just like
the sea we came from. As we age, changing through the years, our
human chemical formula changes with us. Those rare elements at the bottom of our list,
like the iron in our blood, the magnesium that surrounds our DNA, cobalt in vitamin
B12, copper at work in our mitochondria, they are joined by others that don’t seem to
do anything at all. The average adult contains detectable amounts of 60 elements, mostly
just traces of our diet and environment that have built up over time, remnants of past
experiences, like heavy metal memories. In fact, if you cut off all your toenails
and hair, you could even mine gold … not much, maybe a tiny nugget no bigger than a
single grain of salt, worth about a tenth of a cent. But what about the rest of you?
If you isolated all the elements that you’re made of into their pure form, well… you’d
be dead. But if you did this to someone else, the ingredients for one life would fetch around
one to two thousand dollars on the open market. Of course, you can’t really do that, but
it gives us another way to look at life: Everybody’s worth something, and thanks to inflation,
you’ll be even more valuable tomorrow than you are today.
You’re definitely more interesting than what’s on your label. Stay curious!

100 thoughts on “The Recipe For Life…”

  1. Awww, look, it's little Harrison… I think it's Harrison anyway (I just watched the video on why we love our families, baby Harrison is in it).

  2. Wait, so a newborn baby has one atom of Cobalt in their bodies? Why just one? Where and how is ONE ATOM of Cobalt used in a baby's body?
    And why is that ONE ATOM of Cobalt so important that it gets to make the 2% list, while the 36,800 atoms of Silicon and 2,110 atoms of Zinc don't? They are FAR more abundant (according to your numbers) than the ONE ATOM of Cobalt (or 76 atoms of Copper, even–which also made the list)…..

    Watching further, I realize you state that Cobalt is in B12….So….babies have 1 molecule of B12 when they're born? Still confused xD

    Something else to note: those 4 Greek elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air match up to Carbon (coal and diamonds mined from the Earth), Hydrogen (2/3 of a Water molecule), Oxygen (1/3 of the Fire triangle), and Nitrogen (the most abundant element that makes up the Air in our atmosphere). Ancient Greeks weren't so stupid.

  3. Thanks for telling me that despite being a complex human being with his own state of concious…. i am only 3 to 6 times more valuable then my laptop…

  4. Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost.

  5. if silicon is so essential to machines (like iPhones) than why didn't machine life develop along with biological life?? why don't we have transformers????

  6. Man, I love you, really… This video was hilarious, and definitely very entertaining! Keep doing the great job you do!

  7. Yeah yeah yeah. Fullmetal Alchemist did better. Alchemy for the win! Lets find a philosopher's stone and make a human for the change of a child!

  8. $2,000 worth of raw chemicals. yes. but we are an alchemical factory with biosynthetic super organs which themselves fetch upwards of $2-5 million all told. And the cumulative effects on the environment of that organic supersuit over 70 years generates an average of $2 million in a lifetime, yet if you're killed, the effects on society result in a net loss of around $15 million. You're literally priceless. The more of you the better… i'm only talking about africans, of course. neanderthals have pretty much useless junk genetics.

  9. Please leave me alone, i've been playing your videos for like 6 straight hours, im your f slave for god's sake

  10. Maybe Silicon based life can only be created by Carbon based life? A by product of an advanced cultures use of technology? Who knows

  11. They can be a cake without a baker you can just put ingredients on a table and they do some evolution blah blah blah blah we know thats not how it works because everything even cake has a creator so why shouldn't we think that intelligent life just like a robot should have a creator

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