Feed on

everybody wins

i tutor biology at the cambridge high school now. for the past semester, i’ve been waking up a little earlier twice a week and helping out a student with her homework and readings.

i decided to this for all the usual reasons. feelings of guilt induced by the inherent selfishness of trying to build a career. a desire to know that i have some practical utility. the satisfaction accompanying making someone else’s life slightly easier and perhaps even better.

what i didn’t foresee (and am so excited about that i thought i’d blog about it): how much richer my understanding of biology could become.

you see, i’d been so caught up in the minutia of my high school and college biology classes — essentially memorizing the names of enzymes in pathways or the precise number of ATP generated by certain cycles — that i kept missing the big pictures. for instance, last week, as i explained photosynthesis and cellular respiration to my student, i finally realized: life means turning light into carbon, and carbon into work.  that, in a nutshell, is what life is all about.

the profundity of that realization was awesome.  and, it once and for all organized all of those damn chains and cycles that i had previously memorized individually and therefore left unconnected, un-unified: the electron transport chain, the krebs cycle, the calvin cycle, glycolysis.  now, i could see the gears in the clockwork and appreciate their beauty.  walking outside and looking at a tree was suddenly like seeing the matrix.

scary to think that i could have gone through grad school without gaining an understanding of something so fundamental in biology.

still, tutoring hasn’t been all emotional fulfillment and intellectual gain: i dropped my breakfast banana on the ride into the lab from the high school on tuesday.

Bookmark and Share

2 Responses to “everybody wins”

  1. on 07 Dec 2007 at 12:18 pm Andrew Louie

    As an engineer I see it differently:

    Sun ouputs X energy = Q = (Q x n0) (or the amount of energy that the earth actually gets from the sun)

    Q x n1(efficiency of Life Engine, ie plants) = Hydrocarbon, H

    H x n2 (efficiency of Human Engine ) = useful work (UW) + waste

    therefore useful work = Q – (waste(Q,waste,dt)) *n1 *n2

    The ability to harness Q is a function of the amount of waste(as in greenhouse gases) and time.

    you figure out how to make those plants produce more energy, and I’ll figure out how to use that extra energy =P

  2. on 09 Dec 2007 at 10:50 am Lawrence David

    We do that already — see corn subsidies :)

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply