Once Upon a Time…

We are born, we reproduce, we die.

Thus reads the simplest life story, the pattern into which every organism’s course of existence can fit. With broad brush strokes we paint the history of biological life, no more than a series of births, reproductions, and deaths, over and over again. The monotonous tedium of it, an unbroken chain stretching back hundreds of millions of years without, is mind-numbing from this perspective, bland, repetitive, and pointless.

As we begin to flesh out the details of the story, though, bright points of interest begin to emerge from the image – the explosive color and noise of countless species in every shape and size, differentiating themselves, carving out their own unique niche in the environment and being sculpted in turn by its ever-changing force. Beauty, intricacy, complexity all jump from the page as we read faster and faster, unable to put down the book of life.

Deeper and deeper the story takes us, to the building blocks which direct this wild cacophony of life, the unseen molecules that each organism inherited from its parents and will pass on to its children, which provide the blueprint, project manager, and maintenance for the building that is each species from the most basic single cell to the most complex bird or mammal.

And that is where we will focus, as the advance of science and technology unearths the treasures and reveals the mysteries hiding within the world around us: on those smallest and most hidden things of all, which affect so much. For once upon time there was a fragile strand of RNA, clinging to existence by a thread, who managed to not only survive in a hostile world but also to replicate… and that is where it all began.