Lighting Up

(Title image used unmodified under CC 2.0 license.)

Let’s talk about a feeling. The feeling of “getting it”. You’ve had it before, right? That moment when someone explains something, and it makes sense, when it connects to other things you know, and then it looks—inevitable. Of course you have.

But have you had the fake one? The one that feels like everything is explained, and then, when you have to use your newfound knowledge, it evaporates? Where you look inside your mind, thinking surely it is there, it was there a minute ago, but it is nowhere to be found? Of course you have.

So have I. There are precious few things that I get, and there are always more details to get. So I’ve started this blog to catalog things I really get; things that I can explain without new jargon.

Some things I now get:

  • What the bloodstream actually does.
  • What the lungs actually do.
  • How the innate immune system works.
  • A high-level overview of how the adaptive immune system works.

These are all in human biology. The reason is that I’ve never studied it before and now I am, and so it’s very clear when I open a door and the other side is lit. Also, it’s really cool.

In general, I’m going to write each post and try to make clear:

  • What I am taking for granted.
  • What I don’t yet understand.

That’s because at every level of knowledge, there’s something that’s at least a little unclear. I can say lungs are to get oxygen from the air, but how? I can say that hemoglobin binds to oxygen, but why does that matter? I can say that one way the adaptive immune system fights intruders is through opsonization, but what does that mean?

In each of those questions, I’ve used progressively more jargon, but what I said could just as well be summarized as:

“The thing works because reasons.”

This blog is to actually explain things, as I get them. It’s about my brain lighting up.

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