The most astounding and poetic fact I know about the world

A recent hubbub was stirred when Miley Cyrus tweeted a link to a photo & quote from Lawrence Krauss — a reflection on our common origin as stardust (…and also had a comment somewhat dismissive towards a religious figure). To him it was the most poetic thing he knew about the universe.

I thought I’d share a fact I find at least as astounding and poetic:


Butterfly on flower, by Ben124.

When I watch a butterfly resting on a flower, I know that the instructions that made that flower, the instructions that made the butterfly, the instructions that made me — even the instructions of the invisible and ubiquitous bacteria

These instructions all speak the same language.



The Genetic Code. CC-BY-SA, derived from this.

Every single living thing uses the same DNA, the same genetic code, the same arbitrary correspondence of how to build proteins out of amino acids.

It has been four billion years since me and bacteria parted ways, but I can still take a piece of my own instructions and place it inside a bacteria, and the bacteria can read it, it can use it.

The sheer improbability that the parts making me can be used by a bacteria astounds me. That the instructions creating every form of life are written in the same language is a deeply powerful demonstration of our common origin: we are all distant cousins.

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