A honeycomb in a beehive has individual pockets that are perfectly six-sided (hexagonal). How do all bees know how to do this, and what is so magical about six sides, why not a round shape, or four or eight sides? The answer was probably decided by evolution, where certain bees tried those other ways and there was something structurally less desirable about any form other than six equal sides. Just as the goose flying in V formation slides into the easiest slipstream, so it is probable that the bee making a hexagonal pocket spits along for a distance then angles inwards 60 degrees and repeats it. There is a mental “groove” in the bee’s brain that feels just right. The fact that genes can record and remember such exact instructions is a marvel of biochemistry.
Let’s Go Smaller
When we zoom in to visualize a bee’s eyes we see the individual lenses are coincidentally also hexagonal. We might laughingly presume that you need hexagonal eyes to make hexagonal
honeycombs, but there’s a universal structural strength being shown here. As a gene gives instructions for embryonic bee eye development, the chemicals that make the structure of the hexagonal frame are likely laid down similar to the bee spitting honeycombs- create structure for a distance, angle 60 degrees, repeat until full circle, then start another structure. Perhaps there is a genetic formula that is repeated at macroscopic and microscopic levels, just as a computer sub-program can be part of several different programs. (“You cannot delete this file as it is being used in other files…”)
On to human brains. In the February 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine, on page 36 is an illustration of the newest theory of the structure of the brain- that in spite of the tremendous complexity, the neurons intersect at right angles.
This would be an exciting discovery on its own, however, in the book Existence1 it was suggested that in order to make a robotic-computer that thinks rather than just computes, “there will have to be a mesh, a network or a three-dimensional array of circuits that interconnect, along with intersections that decide where to send the electronic energy. Maybe the working concept of miniaturized silicon chips at all the crossroads within a graphene mesh would mimic the brain.”
Clever Chemicals or Clever Life?
Note that the structure that served well at the macroscopic level of bee honeycombs, was also a good design for bee eye lenses, and now we see it here at a smaller level still, the simplest linking of carbon atoms. This might suggest that the genetic assembly of body parts uses strong atomic physical attractions, resulting in less work for the living entity. ‘Guide’ chemicals into forms that they already enjoy. If this is the case, then it makes you wonder if atoms have been created with the ultimate purpose of being part of life. The universe of planets, stars and galaxies does not need life, yet life exists. When we consider the opposite theory, that atoms came into being without consideration of life, then life cleverly manipulated and used atoms to its advantage, making life very clever indeed, which spurs the question as to where life got that intelligence.
The Artistry of Math
The cherry on top comes from further in the past. Dutch artist MC Escher created this lithograph in 1952 (photo from page 28 of Bang! The Complete History of the Universe, Patrick More et al, Carlton Books, London UK, 2009):
So we have bees, math, physics, an artist, and several independent minds that summate to a suspicion that life in all its wonder adheres to principles. The observation that multiple minds are coalescing to a common conclusion contributes to the idea of a path of increasing complexity in evolution and in life. The driving force behind this trend is the real wonder, and even if we knew what or who is the source of this force, there is another deeper layer of inquiry: why? There is no apparent reason for the universe to come into being; whether molecules exist or don’t exist would not matter if they didn’t exist. Yet beyond that physical mystery is the delicate question of why life stirred and arose from the rocks. It would seem that the increasing complexity is driving us towards some ultimate goal, and there can be wrong turns and blind avenues but they are necessary to rule out the paths that are not part of the destiny.
If we relax and ponder the universe simply, the complexity trend goes from ‘nothing’ (as far as we know), to molecules that became planets, to life, until this moment when there is us, thinking about these things. If that is what is, and molecules and life had a billion other choices and paths, then this, us and now, is the ultimate existence. Does that not make life somehow perfect?
(1. Existence: Science, Spirituality and the Spaces Between, Hayward, B, Granville Island Publishing, Vancouver, 2014)