Friday, March 17, 2017

Et Tu, Brute?

Author:  Steven P. Piccoli, Ph.D.
               Translational Medicine Scientist and Biomarker Guru 

Wednesday, March 15th - the fateful Ides of March - is the 2061st anniversary of the death of the noted Roman politician and emperor, Julius Caesar. Why should I care? Is there something special about the number? No, 2061 is not even prime. But, as an undergraduate taking physical chemistry at Carnegie-Mellon University a long time ago, my class was assigned a pertinent problem. Assuming Julius Caesar expired on that auspicious date and exhaled his last sentient breath, what are the chances that right now, 2061 years later, I am breathing one of the exact same molecules that was expelled in a death throe from the lungs of ancient Rome’s most famous elder statesman? Most people’s first response is that there couldn’t possibly be any way that that could happen. But, the professor having asked the question… 

The gas molecules, once expunged from Caesar’s lungs, floated free and spread across the globe in a mathematically predictable pattern. One needs to make some assumptions about rates of diffusion, the size of Caesar’s lungs and the volume of the atmosphere of the earth, temperature and pressure gradients in the troposphere, and whether the gas is nitrogen, oxygen or argon (remember, it was a chemistry class!). Regardless of how you set the problem up and the assumptions which you make, the answer (work not shown) always comes out to be stunningly simple: about one. Every time you inhale, you are in direct physical contact with one molecule of Julius Caesar. 

Last week at the Professional Services Group of Mercer County, Jack Killion presented a very intriguing session on "Network All The Time, Everywhere With Everybody". I was amazed at the amount of directed energy he put into a networking regimen of apparently random contacts. (Random, like diffusion of a gas - starting to catch on?). Any single contact may not result in an actionable or measureable outcome, but over time, and with a sufficiently large number of interactions, events will transpire. It is statistically inevitable, much like now communing with Julius Caesar every waking breath. I realized I am also interacting with Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, Johan Sebastian Bach, Marie Curie and Steve Jobs, as well as eight billion other people I have not yet met. I had never realized the strength of the vast network I had complete access to at my fingertips (or in Caesar's case, technically, my lips). My current physical network is powerful, but not as formidable as the combined reach of all their connections put together, and then amplified by those selfsame contacts ad infinitum. Every day I have the opportunity to speak with dozens of people - some acquaintances, some yet unknown to me – and communicate, network, interact. All I need to do is take advantage of each and every potential opportunity that either comes my way or that I deliberately develop, and eventually I can reach out to and will be known by every single person on the planet. Now that's a network!

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