Superoxide: An Unlikely Hero

When I took oncology at Cornell in the mid-90’s, the root cause of cancer was explained in the following way. Certain things – such as ionizing radiation from a nuclear explosion – cause free radical formation. The free radicals can damage the DNA, causing genetic mutations. When enough mutations accumulated in key genes affecting the …

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The Great Oxygenation

The primordial atmosphere of the earth didn’t contain Oxygen (O2). The atmosphere was a “reducing atmosphere”, the exact opposite of today’s “oxidizing atmosphere”. Somewhere along the line life evolved. Single-celled organisms. Weirdos by today’s standards. Methanogens and sulfate-reducing microorganisms. That was just life for a couple billion years. And then chlorophyll evolved. Chlorophyll changes everything. …

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A Very Gentle Introduction to Oxidation

Humans are electrical creatures. Our basic biology is controlled by the movement of electrons. In a biological system, instead of moving through a wire, the electrons move from one molecule to another. These reactions are called redox reactions, which is short for reduction and oxidation. when an electron moves from one molecule to another, the …

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Fire In a Bottle

Fire is a positive feedback loop where atmospheric oxygen (O2) oxidizes the hydrocarbon bonds (the bonds between a carbon and a hydrogen atom) in common fuel sources like wood, paper, fat, cellulose, starch, sugar, natural gas and gasoline. The oxidation reaction gives off heat. The heat causes more oxidation which causes more heat which causes …

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