The Fountain 2016 Essay Contest Shortlist

Here are the 36 writers who qualified into the shortlist. Winners will be announced on March 31. Good luck!

Afrouz Razavi; Amos Abi, Oleh; Arte Krasniqi; Aura Truelove; Claudia Verona; Denise Faye Oliva Tabilas; Duncan Rowan Ireland; Elizabeth Jaeger; Faleeha Hassan; Gabriella Brand; Giusi Catarinolo; Helen Stead; Janette Conger; Jessica Ornelas; JG Horta; Joel Moodley; Karina Nava-Melchor; Kathleen Jacobson; Khajira Christopher; Lawrence Brazier; Mansurni Abadi; Matthew Hawk Eldridge; Michael Mardel; Michael W. Smith; Mike Brinkac; Nuran Elif Öztürk; R. D. Rogers; Ray Mwareya; Rebecca Foster; Rosemary McKinley; Salma Hany Abdel Fattah; Santiago Selva; Sifon Ikpe; Suzeth Lozania; Terri Doby; Valentina Locatelli

A Moment for Reflection

  • Issue 108 / November - December 2015



    The Rhythm Embroided Into Existence

    Nuh Ozdin

    Events that occur on the space-time continuum and then vanish have been granted a certain, specific period of time. As we discover that every object in the universe, no matter how big or small, is organized by certain rhythms, we better understand that the periodic oscillations of the world are not random, and from galaxies to atoms everything comes into being in a perfectly planned fashion.

    Rhythm in Space

    Like our body's biological clock, every event that occurs in the universe, and each living or non-living thing, has a dynamic rhythm that forms during their creation in the space-time continuum. The completion of Earth's rotation around its axis in one day, and its revolution around the Sun in a year, are examples of periodic events in space. Likewise, we always see the same side of the moon because the moon's rotation velocity around its axis and its speed of revolution around the Earth are roughly the same.

    Our solar system is also rotating, and it completes its tour around the Milky Way galaxy in one galactic year (225-250 million years). In fact, all heavenly bodies are in a constant state of motion. For instance, it is already known that 2061 will be the next time Haley's Comet orbits Earth.

    The movements of the planets and their satellites present in the solar system affect events taking place on Earth. Tidal movements, occurring on a 24.8 hour period, are dictated by the gravitational pull of the moon. The tides deeply affect humans and other animals, both on land and in the sea. For example, coastal birds have adapted their natural rhythms to only forage during low tides. Anyone who has ever wanted to beachcomb also knows that low tide is the best time to search!

    Rhythm in nature

    Our planet's living and non-living reactions also take place rhythmically: seasons, and sun rises and sun sets, never lose their proper order.

    This is important, as many animals depend on these rhythms. The reproductive period of the Mid-European Roe deer is regulated according to these seasons. They mate in the months of July and August, when abundant food is available. The fawns are born during the month of May, which is the most suitable time regarding temperature.

    Porcupines living in South Africa spend June through August – winter in the Southern Hemisphere – in hibernation, while Mid-European porcupines hibernate from October to April. However while Mid-Europe is dominated by cold weather, porcupines kept in the controlled environs of zoos do not hibernate like their partners in the wild.

    The migration habits of many animals also depend on the seasons. Pearl mullets of Van Lake, in Turkey, start migrating upstream into rivers in June every year. They return once they deposit their eggs somewhere sheltered and stagnant in the river. Salmon in the American northwest follow similar patterns.

    Birds lay eggs at certain times, incubate them, and then migrate thousands of kilometers. Their ability to do this depends on the rhythms of the seasons. And as we know, flora also buds and flowers depending upon these natural rhythms.

    Rhythm in our body

    Our body and organs also have a rhythm. Even though we are not aware of it, these harmonious movements, called the biological clock, continue until death. For example, our heart pumps rhythmically and a disturbance in this rhythm can be a sign of serious diseases. By cell death and creation of new ones, our organs are periodically rejuvenated.

    Our metabolism also works in harmony. The pineal gland (epiphysis) is the first check point of the biological clock. This tiny organ in the brain plays a role in the proper regulation of our organs and systems via a couple of hormones it secretes, primarily melatonin.

    Together with the hypothalamus, the pineal gland works like a clock to measure time. While many organs use chemical cues to secrete hormones, the pineal gland activates according to light strength. Melatonin secretion is related to the dimness of the environment. Generally, light causes levels of melatonin to decrease, but darkness leads to an increase. Light cues arrive at the pineal gland via a complicated neural path that starts with the retinal layer of the eye. It follows this route:

    light retina hypothalamus epiphysis melatonin secretion

    The speed of our metabolism in terms of the causation chain is controlled by the melatonin hormone. Physiological events such as feeling sleepy in the evening and waking up in the morning occur according to melatonin levels. In other words, the rotation of Earth around its axis and its revolution around the Sun, which also means the arrival of the Sun's rays on the planet, act directly on the body's metabolism.

    Rhythm in the cells and deciphering a code

    As the smallest functional unit of organisms, cells also have a lifespan. A cell's biological clock displays its division and death times. Telomere, a part of our DNA present in chromosomes, gets shorter with each cell division, meaning that a cell cannot divide beyond a certain point. Therefore, the telomere is a structure in charge of determining a cell's biological clock. However, the telomerase enzyme present in cancer cells is a protein that prevents this DNA fragment from becoming shorter; thus, a cancerous cell reproduces by dividing continuously and uncontrollably.

    Dr. Woodring Wright and Dr. Jerry Shay from Texas University have discovered that a substance called 6-thiodG binds to the telomerase enzyme to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells in both cell culture mediums and mice. When the telomerase enzyme encounters the 6-thiodG substance, the cancerous cells sense a signal, as if the cell has been damaged; it quits dividing and later dies. Today, this chemical molecule gives hope for future studies. We can be satisfied that one code has been deciphered and a step has been taken in terms of scientific progress.

    From the world of the heavens to the world of atoms, creation continues at every scale in the universe. All events take place in rhythmic periods, and all organisms follow these rhythms. Like the gears of a clock, though some are small and some are big, all are still part of a larger system. As the laws and organizations established in the universe are elucidated better, the wonderful rhythm of existence and the codes regarding these will be continually discovered. Humankind, which is built with curiosity to investigate and learn, will have better awareness of the wonders of the creation as they analyze these rhythmic mechanisms, and they will be filled with awe and gratitude.

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