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Electrical forces were not only important for the origin of life. They are still in action in all parts of our planet and our bodies, even when dealing with the more mundane chores. For example, when we connect a television or computer, each pixel of the screen radiates electromagnetic waves that propagate at up to three hundred thousand kilometres per second. What follows is an extraordinary sequence of events.

The most likely occurrence is that the viewer's eyes roll, describing a series of majestic shifts while the screen is lighting up: each eyeball, weighing about 7 grams, is made to slide down the smooth orbit, coated in fat, by the action of six flattened muscles. The eye blinks, dilated pupils are ready and electromagnetic waves begin to be absorbed.

There is a slight deceleration across the cornea carrying with it the screen image towards the human who still awaits. The most forward points of each wave all lie approximately on the same plane.

The waves transpose the aqueous humour through the hole and into the pupil. The viewer might have his eyes semi-closed to prevent glare, but human reflexes occur at the scale of milliseconds, so they are very much slower than the invading waves and sneak by the pupil without any obstruction.

The hard crystalline, attempts to focus the waves a little better, then dropping them in the in the gelatinous vitreous humour sea. Some of the electrical waves are held by organic molecules along the way; most, however, can overcome these soft biological obstacles through the inner lining of the eye and finally reach your destination: the fragile branching stalk of the brain known as the retina. The new coming waves, still traveling at almost the same speed with which it entered the eye, then impinge on a mesh of old blood vessels and cell membranes, triggering an unexpected phenomenon.

An electric current is generates.

It may seem odd, as the interior of our bodies is an extremely moist. We found and created electricity in telegraphs, telephones, lamps, electric motors, radios, radars and computers of all kinds. But within ourselves? In principle, water and electricity should not go together. There is well known scene in the James Bond film, in which the protagonist settles an opponent by throwing him a radio (electric) into the tub (full of water). However, the tiny circuits within our orbit imitate more refined electrical receptors, although not made of insulated copper wire or ingeniously modified silicon, but of common proteins, fat cholesterol - and plenty of water.

Electricity is all over our bodies, and it is what makes it work. There tangled electrical wires that penetrating the depths of our brain; intense electric and magnetic fields that pass through our cells, driving nutrients and neurotransmitters across microscopic insulating membranes, even our own DNA is ruled by powerful electrical forces.

This has created a new form of technology, a liquid technology. We can electrically charge tiny sachets of water, which then are directed to all corners of our body. Anaesthetics act on the electric pumps of our nerve cells, stunning them and thus making possible surgical interventions. Prozac clings to the electrical terminals of our brains and prevent grievances coming to us; electrically charged molecules released by one tablet of Viagra affect the firing of other neurons, contributing to our enjoyment. It's all part of the great change that is taking place on the frontiers of current science - from physics to biology, from the physical world outside to the body and its passions.

But what do the electrical circuits inside our bodies and our brains do? The idea is so strange that only recently we realized the role played by electricity in our bodies.

We are alive because we have an electric current to flow within us, and we have to keep this current to sustain life.

 

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