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The Andromeda Strain Essay, Research Paper

The Andromeda Strain takes place in the 1960 s in the United States, primarily in the southwest region of the continent. The military is launching a series of satellites for a project called SCOOP. The satellites were sent out to enter the Earth s orbit and collect microorganisms for study. The final satellite in the SCOOP series landed in a small town in Arizona called Piedmont. Once the capsule was discovered by a local inhabitant, the population instantly dropped from forty-eight down to two. The satellite recovery team loses contact with the base, and then the military sends out specially equipped aircraft to survey the town. The films taken by the aircraft reveal dead bodies sprawled out all over the streets of the town. In fear that a biological crisis has occurred, the military calls on its specially trained team called Wildfire. The Wildfire team was sent to Piedmont to investigate, and they found two survivors left in the town. One of the survivors was an anemic man, and the other was a wailing infant. The team then collects the capsule (or the downed SCOOP satellite) and travels to a secret laboratory in Nevada to study the evidence and devise a solution. The duration of the story consists of the team going through certain procedures in order to discover all that they can about this new organism.

Physics Concept #1

Microscopic analysis of the satellite reveals that a small black meteor covered with small green specks is embedded in the outer wall of the satellite. The green specks are observed to expand on the surface of the rock. Mass spectrometry performed on the rock and the green specks show that both the rock and the green specks are organic, consisting mainly of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Amino acid analyses reveal that no amino acids known on Earth, and therefore no proteins, exist within the structure of the microorganism. This concept is explained perfectly, and told by a man who obviously know what he is talking about. The plausibility of this concept, however, is still undetermined. All living organisms on Earth are made up of proteins, and all chemical reactions that take place within a cell rely on enzymes. Without proteins it may not even be possible for an extraterrestrial cell to live.

Physics Concept #2

An intriguing physical concept in the book is the manner in which the Andromeda strain kills its victims. It was discovered that the Andromeda strain kills by coagulation. Most of the victims of the strain die as a result of complete clotting of blood (a total of five quarts) within a matter of seconds. Overcoalgulation is possible, seen in the rare disorder known as disseminated intravascular coagulation, mentioned in the novel. This disorder is caused by overstimulation of the blood clotting mechanisms in response to severe injury, (also mentioned in the novel) but has not been know to cause clotting of the blood to the extent that the Andromeda strain is described. Therefore, the manner by which the strain kills its victims seems hard to imagine, but still a viable mechanism that could work in real life.

Physics Concept #3

The two Piedmont survivors are somehow able to escape the attack of the strain. This is later explained by the abnormality of the pH levels in the blood of both survivors. The old man is discovered to be acidotic, due to overdoses of aspirin and methanol. The child is found to be alkalotic, due to rapid breathing and excessive crying. These abnormal pH values give the two protection from the attack of the strain. This is definitely a possibility because all the reactions and activities of a cell take place within specific conditions, one of them being pH. It therefore makes perfect sense for an organism to function differently in response of an abnormal pH level.

Physics Concept #4

Towards the end of the novel the strain mutates into a form that is not harmful to humans, but it is now able to disintegrate rubber and other synthetic polymers. The scientists then conclude that the crisis is over, and that there is no further danger to humans by the Andromeda strain. This is highly unlikely and definitely not a scientific approach to the solution for a possible biological crisis. If mutation occurred once then it could happen again, and there is no guarantee that the mutations will continue to render the strain harmless. Also, if the strain can disintegrate polymers then it could cause great damage in highly populated areas of the world. Mutation is the only solution to the crisis that is given, with no other explanations. This is definitely not the way real scientists would handle a problem like this.

Physical Concept #5

Towards the conclusion of the novel a plane, on its way to Piedmont crashes to the ground. The cause of the crash is due to the mutation of the strain and its new ability to break down polymers. The plane s movement before and after the crash can be explained mathematically. In physical terms, the movement of the plane can be defined by using equations solving for velocity or momentum. The crash itself can be explained using collision equations. Whether or not Chrichton took mathematics or physics into consideration when writing about the plane crash is unknown. With the given information about the plane, (altitude and speed) one may be able to determine several different physical concepts. The information is limited however, so another factor may needed to solve for any physical aspects of the plane s movement. The crash is not quite a clear explanation of physics, but can still be looked at in a physical aspect. This crash holds great importance, for it acts as the denouement of the story because the strain has mutated into a benevolent form, and the scientists no longer see it as a threat to humanity.

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