The Biological/Physical Sciences Divide, and the Age of Unreason

This week I received an email from friend & colleague William (Bill) Muir in the USA. He shared some papers for me to comment on, and they have led me through some very interesting observations about the current state of sciences and their divergence. Time was that medicine and physiology were one and the same; for the Nobel Prize committee they still are. The title above is from a masterful Essay from Barry Ninham at the Australian National University.

I recommend you read it in full. Learn how bovine albumin was detected on a meteorite that landed on a farm in Australia, and contemplate how little is known about the structure of water in biological situations.

The latter was the subject of Bill’s enquiry. Bill sent me an intriguing preprint from the Laboratory of Jerry PollackOn the Driver of Blood Circulation Beyond the Heart.” The authors claim to have discovered an infra-red-dependent flow-driving mechanism operating in the circulatory system, that complements the action of the heart. They show that blood continues to circulate in an early-stage chick embryo after destruction of the embryonic heart, and that infra-red light increases the circulatory rate.

Now my first reaction to this is to point out that only a tiny motive force is required to accelerate such a tiny mass of blood, an amount that is negligible compared to the work of the heart of an adult homo sapiens, accelerating several kilograms of blood against gravity and a pressurised peripheral resistance, so I shall not trouble my critical care readers to spend too long worrying about a clinical application for it.

More interesting is Pollack’s observation on the structure of water. Jerry Pollack has produced some TED talks on the phenomenon he calls EZ water and sells a popular book about his journey in pursuit of “The fourth phase of water.” The cartoon below heads up Chapter 3 of that book.

Jerry Pollack’s Exclusion Zone, or EZ water.

A perplexed molecule of H2O sits in a gel surface wondering why solutes are excluded from the layer of water adjacent to the surface. The likeliest answer, proposes Jerry Pollack, is that water molecules lend positive charges to the negatively-charged material that contains the liquid and consequently align themselves in an order that excludes solutes, and is called EZ water: “a bit like ice, but not ice”.

Pollack is a captivating communicator, and has long been regarded as a ‘dissenting voice’ within the scientific community. See, for example, a Book Review of his “Cells, Gels, and the Engines of Life.” But Starlingologists see parallels with the erythrocyte exclusion zone of plasma adjacent to the endothelial surface layer and the perfused boundary region (PBR) visualised with GlycoCheck technology. We are intrigued. Can pure water exist in a gel-like phase?

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