B. Hughes

The Theory of Everything was a movie about people trying to find single equation that can describe the entire universe. I’ve always thought this an odd idea to pursue, but if that’s how a few physicists want to spend their lives, more power to ’em. It is better than making bombs or bio-weapons. My perspective is grounded in chemistry and biology. You can think of it as more of a “bottom-up” approach than the inherently “top-down” perspective imparted by the search for a unified Theory of Everything. Really, mine is a “center-out” pathway. Because I was focused on cellular metabolism when I practiced research science, that is the scale which I began to see the shape of the Universe. The Structural Organization of the Biological Body provided the context for my first glimpses of the universal Everything, but it is only half of the story. Each of us is an organism at the top of the triangle and Everything is much bigger than us. I’ll leave it to each of you to imagine a similar picture of the Structural Organization of the Universe, building from the organism to larger scales. Every being that can see itself at the intersection of the diagram below with the one imagined above, should now understand the “center-out” perspective.

Most of the research I participated in was aimed at figuring out how biological organisms managed to accomplish the biochemistry and metabolism of living. The work was not so much about why, as about how things work. All pursued within the limitations of technology, funds, creativity, equipment and thought. One day, I picked up a magazine and saw a series of pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope – after they fixed the lens. I marveled over the images while I lingered over coffee and a breakfast cookie, then I went to work in the lab. Later that afternoon I went to a seminar by a scientist working with electron and fluorescence microscopy to study the dynamics of cellular membrane structures. Literally the molecular skeleton of our cells. Some of the pictures were virtually indistinguishable from those I admired at breakfast. Same shape, vastly different scales. One the basic tenets of my molecular and cellular level research was that function and structure are intertwined. We tend to think of shape as an infinite with endless permutations, but that is not the case in the molecular world of proteins and enzymes. There are only so many ways to fold up the peptide chain full of electrically charged beads, especially when the things has to catalyze specific reactions between particular substrates. After a while, you start to pick up on the molecular jazz. I mean, where the structures and functions are variations on a set of basic themes. When I saw similar shapes in nebulae, starbursts, and galaxies, it was evident that these functional structures persist from molecular to universal scales. These are the certain shapes that do the work of the universe. The Skeleton of Everything.

This is not a theory. It is an empirical observation. Some refer to this as Sacred Geometry, but I don’t attribute the Skeleton to any supernatural being. Vladimir Vernadsky taught me that the biosphere is a kind of global scale megamacrobeing. A planetwide symbiotic biofilm that has persisted on Earth for 3 billion years or more. These structures exist because they work in this universe. They work because their shape and function accomplish useful synthetic ends. Ultimately, the Skeleton works because it transforms other parts and thereby unfolds Everything. The Theory of Everything is that a single equation can be constructed to represent the Skeleton of Everything. Here it is important to recognize that the analogy of a bony skeleton is no wholly appropriate to capture everything. The Skeleton is comprised of dynamic shapes that transform the environment, i.e. everything that is not inside of us,. Whatever “us” may be and wherever “outside” might be found. The Skeleton is scalable; i.e. fractal. That’s the Skeleton of Everything. You see it in the stars and feel it in your gut.