Sunday, June 7, 2009

I'm gonna die for the rest of my life

Today we're going to take a peek at the dark side of science: suicide.

Is suicide sexy? Well... no, but as my father used to say... she gives a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do her.

Your body loses roughly 60 billion cells a day due to a process called apoptosis (aka programmed cell death). Your cells voluntarily kill themselves. In the time it will take you to read this blog, 42 million of your cells will have committed suicide. Over the course of a year, the suicidal cells you lose will add up to your body weight. 22 trillion* dead pieces of you.

Put simply: every year, you kill yourself. An entire you is birthed
and buried over and over again. You as much celebrate your death as you do your birth every time you blow out another round of birthday candles.

Cells off themselves for a variety of reasons, but their motivation revolves around one of two core issues:
  1. They are wasting space or energy
  2. They are fucking shit up
Suicide is most important when a cell is infected with something - like a virus - that will spread to other cells. When you get bitten by a zombie, the proper thing to do is kill yourself before you infect the rest of the world and end mankind. The same is true of more serious infections like Rush Limbaugh.
Certain viruses can prevent apoptosis and reproduce freely - eventually killing the host. Depression is the worst of these. Left unchecked it can spread quickly and is hard to overcome. One bad apple spoils the bunch and a bunch of apathetic, unmotivated cells are worthless.

Sometimes a cell will realize that it is a danger to others and will honorably committ seppuku of its own volition, but other times, a loser cell will need other cells to encourage the suicide.

For example, let's say a cell was sitting around your house all day. It watches infomercials and eats all your ice cream. It doesn't buy more ice cream, or toilet paper. It doesn't clean the toilet either. It's just there, using energy and not paying any rent. Its gotta go and sometimes you gotta say, "Dude, kill yourself" and kick that loser out on the street when it does. Othertimes, its just a matter of space. The cell with 6 cars parked on its front lawn and the meth lab in back is taking up valuable real estate. But if that cell overdoses - BOOM! - Starbucks.

One way or another, if a cell can't fix itself or be fixed, it must commit suicide for the good of all cells. Not doing so is a selfish act - dead weight holding back the progress and prosperity of life without regard to the detriment or decline of those cells who need every edge they can get to survive. And more toilet paper.
*Leap year data

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