Anyone who has ever spent more than 30 seconds with me knows I ask a lot of questions.
Ever since I was young, I’ve had a “scientific mindset.” I was trying to drill at why things happened. I also asked a lot of “what if [insert hypothesis]?” questions because I wanted to explore alternative possibilities. I love finding new correlations and theories.
Naturally, science has become my favourite area to study, and I spend a lot of time learning about scientific things. But — I’m also interested/dedicated to personal improvement.
And I’ve recently discovered that science is another way to develop my mindsets and character further.
Science topics make for some excellent personal growth analogies.
Here’s one for stoicism:
You may have heard the term “warm-blooded” assigned to animals like humans and “cold-blooded” to animals like snakes. Warm-blooded means that those animals can internally “create” heat. Compared to cold-blooded animals, who take on the temperature of their environment.
Humans are (almost) always 37 degrees Celcius. We stay at the same temperature unless we are sick or in a dangerous situation.
This isn’t magical. We call our ability to keep our bodies at one temperature, “thermoregulation.” Thermoregulation is part of a wildly crucial process called homeostasis.
Homeostasis is the basis of humans’ ability to live in almost every climate, from the Sahara Desert to living in Canadian igloos to the jungles of South America. Every human’s body temperature should be 37 degrees Celcius.
Homeostasis controls wayyyy more than just temperature. Like blood-glucose levels, menstrual cycles and water balance.
You are alive because of homeostasis. As we get older, our bodies get worse at dealing with homeostasis. That’s what we call “ageing.” (If you want to learn about ageing and longevity, I wrote a blog post here).
Homeostasis reacts to stimuli by controlling your internal environment.
And that’s the 🔑. When something changes outside or within the body, it will adapt internally. When there is some stimulus disrupting a function of the body, homeostasis is the process that causes the adaption.
When you get cold, you shiver. When you eat sugar, your body produces insulin to convert that sugar into energy storage. When you’re dehydrated, your body will tell your kidneys to retain more water.
Homeostasis doesn’t try to change the stimulus that causes the change. It doesn’t get upset at the external environment. Why? Because it knows it doesn’t have control over it. The stimulus happened. It’s over. There’s no going back.
But, it does have control over your internal actions. Therefore, it tries to change what it can.
Homeostasis reminds me of stoic philosophy. One of the stoic phrases that have shifted my mentality towards adverse situations is: you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you act.
When an external event changes your internal environment, don’t fuss. Don’t panic. Don’t yell at it. You can’t change what happens to you. But, you can control how you react.
A list of Other Concepts:
- Entropy: order creates more disorder. Therefore there’s no reason to waste time putting everything in an organized place. Instead, “pick your battles” around where you want to create order, because it can’t be everywhere.
- Negative Feedback Loops: we would be very screwed without feedback loops. For example, goitre (a disease, you can look it up if you want, but be warned 😬) causes swelling in the neck due to the thyroid gland growing abnormally. In regular scenarios, the thyroid regulates its growth through feedback loops. We need feedback to survive.
- Positive Feedback Loops: positive feedback grows. It increases the intensity of an event. For ex., during childbirth, different hormones increase the power of contractions. Positive feedback grows — in contrast to negative feedback, which brings the body back to its set-points.
- Somatosensory Brain Regions: your brain doesn’t treat all sensory information equally. It cares way more about your feet, hands and tongue than your elbows or inner thighs. Information (data entering) is prioritized based on the goal of survival.
- Neurons: the nervous system, at its simplest, has three parts: receptor, integration and effector neurons. First, the system listens (senses and receives information). Then it processes it in the brain or spinal cord (integration). Lastly, it takes action on it (effector). This powerful process starts with listening and observing. A neuron won’t fire unless it senses.
- All or nothing rule: for a neuron to fire, it has to have enough stimulus first to surpass a threshold potential (the neuron becomes more positive). If it passes this threshold, it will fire (become WAY more positively charged) — every single neuron in the body fires at the same intensity (magnitude). So if the neuron surpasses the threshold potential, it will fire, if not, it won’t. This reminds me of the “HELL YEAH or no” framework from Derek Sivers.
Billions of years of evolution might be the new Aristotle.