Piero Scaruffi(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"
The Matter of Life
Life on Earth is based on the element carbon. Carbon can bond with oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen because of its four valence electrons. Both proteins and nucleic acids (DNA, RNA) are made of carbon, and energy is stored in the form of carbohydrates.
Energy transformations are linked with the dual processes of oxidation and reduction. Oxidation and reduction reactions occur in pairs: in order for a substance to be reduced another substance must be oxidized. When an atom is oxidized, it loses electrons; and when it is reduced, it gains electrons. Oxidation is a process by which a carbon atom gains bonds to (usually) oxygen. Reduction is a process by which a carbon atom gains bonds to (usually) hydrogen. Molecules gain oxygen or lose hydrogen in an oxidation reaction; lose oxygen or gain hydrogen in a reduction reaction.
Fritz Lipmann (“The metabolic generation and utilization of phosphate bond energy”, 1941) discovered that Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), a high-energy phosphate and therefore a source of readily available energy, and showed that it constitutes the main fuel for many biochemical processes and, in particular, is the main energy carrier in cells. He had basically found the connection between the metabolism and the physics of biological systems, i.e. the chemical process that makes life possible.
Organic molecules are based on carbon, and energy transactions are based on phosphorus.
Oxidation-reduction energy is pervasive in nature. and (relatively rare) Phosphate-bond energy is relatively rare in nature. Life owes its existence to the fact that at some point the two met.
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