The Sun is the Reason We Exist

Energy comes from the sun, not from cans labeled Energy Drink.

Deceptive Words

People who sell you stuff use the power of language to appeal to your senses AND emotions to convince you that you need their product. Your happiness and indeed your entire existence demands that you immediately acquire their treasured product. They compare you to your heroes. If you buy the product, you too can be a marvelous athlete, beautiful artist, genius student, world’s best parent, or as one energy drink maker suggests, a geek, hipster, or biker. Don’t forget sex. That’s in the package also.

Energy Drinks

The sensuous colors of their amazing packages extol vitamins. Yes, drinking vitamins to treat your obvious nutritional deficiencies will give you energy. Pictures of marijuana leaves. CBD to get you over the finish line ahead of the competition. You can become a powerful animal. You can have something really good, as in righteous and not evil: energy without sugar.

You can experience ecstasy from a recyclable aluminum can full of energy.

Now it’s time to be more serious. less flippant. Back to reality.

Where is the Energy in an Energy Drink?

Look at the label of a typical energy drink. This one says 4 calories. (on the other side of the can)

What is a Calorie?

A calorie is a measure of energy. Heat is a form of energy. A calorie is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of a gram of water of one degree Celsius.

Don’t give up reading yet. We will convert that to American. A gram of water is not very much, so visualize 4 grams of water. It’s equal to .00881848 pounds. Alright, that doesn’t help very much either.

Four grams of water equals about 0.81154 teaspoons. A full teaspoon holds 4.93 grams of water.

How about the temperature? One degree Celsius. How hot is that?

It’s neither hot or cold. It’s just a unit of measure defined as 1/100 of the temperature between the freezing point and boiling point of water. Fahrenheit is 1/180 of the interval between the fixed points of freezing and boiling water.

The idea of dividing things by 180 or 360 came from antiquity and probably had something to do with Babylonians using a 360 day calendar. They also used a base 60 numbering system so deciding that an equilateral triangle has 60 degrees per angle made sense and 180 degrees half way around a full 360 degree circle.

The units of temperature used in the United States, Liberia and the Cayman Islands are Fahrenheit, purportedly named after a Prussian scientist by that name. The units Celsius, Fahrenheit, Kelvin, etc. are arbitrary scales that measure which way energy travels, from a high temperature to an area of low temperature. The units also express the average kinetic energy of a substance – how fast the molecules are moving.

What is Energy?

A scientist’s simple definition of energy is the ability to do work. Work is defined as moving something, as opposed to standing still like a rock. Rocks don’t do work but when you move a rock, or even blink your eyes to look at a rock , you are doing work. The kind of energy that involves moving an object through space, a distance, is called kinetic energy. Energy stored in gasoline is potential energy until you start the car and use it as kinetic energy. A doughnut is potential energy.

Energy does not exist as an independent entity. It exists as a property of mass. You can think of mass as particles that have a physical substance or mass as an electromagnetic wave that doesn’t have what we regard as substance. It turns out that mass and energy are two manifestations of the same thing. We can call it existence. Einstein called it E=mc2.


We exist in the universe because energy exists. We think of ourselves as something because energy in our brains is helping us paint a picture of our perceived reality.

What we as mere mortal human beings often equate with the word work is what we have to do to make a living. And when you think about it, that is exactly what work is. It’s staying alive. It’s striving to get the resources to stay alive whether you are a person, a whale, or a toadstool.

We and our fellow mammals, birds, and fish aggressively move about to get those resources. Other organisms like plants just sit around and let the energy go to them.


Green plants are similar to photocells that take energy in the form of sunlight and convert into electric energy that can be stored in a battery for later use.

Green plants receive sunlight into their leaves containing the pigment chlorophyll and through a series of chemical reactions take carbon from the air and convert it into carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. These organic compounds are the basis stored energy used by lifeforms that cannot directly convert sunlight into stored energy. As a byproduct of photosynthesis, plants return oxygen to the air.

Thanks to plants, we get both food and oxygen, the two things we need to produce our own energy to do work.

Plants Need Oxygen Too

While plants are famous for converting CO2 to oxygen, they also rely on oxygen in the same way we animals need it for aerobic respiration. Animals, plants, and fungi all breathe oxygen from the air to burn food for energy. Aerobic respiration occurs on a microscopic level in small bacteria-like structures called mitochondria inside the cells of multicellular organisms.

A famous chemical reaction called the Krebs cycle takes place inside the mitochondria. To understand where energy in most living things comes from, it’s necessary to understand the magic of mitochondria. The Academy of Nutritional Medicine has an excellent page about Mitochondrial Magic.




Phytoplankton are microscopic plants in the oceans. Because the oceans cover 71% of the surface of the earth, phytoplankton exist in massive quantities. They are the ocean equivalent of forests on land but without forest fires. Their photosynthesis produces over half of the oxygen in our atmosphere.

Why should we care? Plankton populations appear to be declining worldwide raising important questions about effects on the world’s climates and food supplies. Keep the oxygen coming; we can deal with the CO2.

Sunlight Spectrum

image - graph of solar spectrum

We see only small fraction of the radiation from the sun, namely from about 380 nanometers (nm) to approximately 700 nm. Ultraviolet light (UVB) in the wavelength from 380 to 315 nm is the invisible light that enables our skin to produce vitamin D. The skin and eyes are most susceptible to damage from wavelengths also classified as ultraviolet in the 265–275 nm wavelengths. For convenience the ultraviolet bands are divided into UVA (315-400 nm), UVB (280-315 nm), and UVC (100-280 nm). The shortest of these, UVC, is potentially the most harmful to life but fortunately it does not penetrate the atmosphere.

Some other wavelengths are also disproportionately absorbed because of specific gasses in our atmosphere. In the above graph, the intensity of light at 750 nm plunges lower that other wavelengths because of oxygen and water in the atmosphere, while at 950 nm water vapor absorbs a lot of the energy.

Sunlight that Stimulates Mitochondria

Mitochondria are like bacteria that got incorporated into cells that have a clearly defined nucleus. These cells are called eukaryotic cells. Mitochondria have their own DNA (mtDNA) that is different from the rest of the host and are inherited from the mother. Mature human red blood cells have no mitochondria and no nucleus. High energy cells like liver cells and heart cells are packed with mitochondria. They are the powerhouses for the cells but are themselves easily subject to DNA damage and dysfunction by being overloaded with damaging oxygen (ROS- reactive oxygen species)

Theoretically during evolution on earth, the surviving mitochondria that found their way into eukaryotic cells avoided being killed or over-stimulated by light in the 750 and 950 wavelengths because the atmosphere sheltered them from these wavelengths. It appears that our mitochondria now react to these wavelengths if exposed to strong artificial light. The mechanism is a disruption in electrical signals between a metabolic function involving cytochrome c (CYTc) and cytochrome c oxidase. Cytochrome c is a multi-functional protein that acts as an electron carrier in the electron transport chain, part of energy production for cells.

Since infrared light is able to penetrate deeply into skin and even through the skull into the brain, it would appear prudent to be cautious about using the multitude of artificial infrared light sources on the market. Near infrared are wavelengths from 800 to 2,500 nm. To use heat from infrared sources for pain relief, all that would be required would be a wet towel between you and the source to effectively absorb the troublesome 950 nm band. On the other hand, mild stimulation/disruption my have therapeutic value.

Living in Harmony with the Sun

Evolution under the Sun

Life on earth evolved under constant energy from the sun. The seasons dictate temperatures that plants had to adapt to. Animals adapte to the seasons also for food and reproduction. Seasonal breeders are animals that mate during certain times of a year so their offspring will be born when temperatures are appropriate and food and water are abundant. Animals with a long gestation period mate in the fall so their young are born in spring. Others like polar bears mate in early summer so their cubs are born in mid winter. Why winter? Female polar bears build a den and nurse the tiny cubs until spring so they can emerge large enough to follow her when they leave he den. Survival is the payoff for successful evolution.

Other animals, notably birds, migrate as days lengthen or grow shorter as the earth moves around the sun. They mate in spring and care for their young during summer when plants and insects are also thriving.

When spring is in the air, populations of insects and spiders explode. Reptiles become active and breed.

Water temperature is the likely trigger for fish to spawn. Many spawn in spring at the same time their favorite insects increase in number.

Human Breeding

Although humans think that they alone are masters of their universe, interesting data from the United Nations shows that the sun and by extension the seasons influence when humans breed.

Human Birth Months for Selected Countries

It is interesting that countries at the same latitudes tend to have more births in the same months suggesting a seasonal and perhaps unconscious reason for conception 9 months earlier. It’s highly doubtful a woman in the United States decides to have a baby in August or September because food is more abundant or predators have more choices. It may be that cold winter nights predispose to copulation in December for a birth in August. It may be purely cultural with worldwide holiday celebrations in December. Or it maybe the sun.

In the southern hemisphere in Chile, births cluster around January (summer) and September (winter). In most of the over 100 countries in the UN survey, September seems to be the most common birth month regardless of latitude.

Link between Birth Month and Health

A 2015 study by data scientists a Columbia University found small but significant correlations between birth month and 55 diseases. It was subsequently published in JAMIA.

A 2001 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claims “Lifespan depends on month of birth,” The paper says the data show that persons born in the northern hemisphere in autumn live longer than those born in spring and the reverse is true in the southern hemisphere. The authors seek explanations in seasonal factors but conclude that “adult lifespan by month of birth is small compared with the total variance and to the differences among social groups or between men and women.”

Less Speculative Associations between the Sun and Humans

Circadian Rhythm

Circadian rhythms are well known 24-hour cycles that regulate important metabolic functions. The sleep-wake cycle is one that deserves attention because sleep is a major determinant of good health in both youth and old. Habits of humans in modern day America disrupt sleep to the point that insomnia and health related aspects have become epidemic. Most of the adverse effects of cell phone screens, television, computer monitors, and LED lights can be mitigated by self discipline: turning off the devices and going to sleep at an appropriate time.

Another aspect of sleep and the circadian rhythm is making good food choices and eating at hours of the day that match your internal clock. Sleep affects the hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates you to eat and leptin decreases your appetite. Sleep also affects insulin. Chronically elevated insulin leads to metabolic dysfunction and diabetes 2, which in turn exacerbates a myriad of other diseases: heart disease and cancer to name the two major killers.

Sleep and Melatonin

When the sun goes down and you have not been looking at the blue light from all those electronic death machines mentioned above, the pinel gland in the mid-line of your brain releases melatonin to signal other functions to help you sleep. Melatonin is the the magic sleep hormone when released by the pineal gland but practically useless when taken by mouth as a sleeping pill. In fact other tissues make vast amounts of melatonin to suppress oxidation. It’s a marvelous antioxidant when released by the body’s own tissues. Light in the blue range (460 to 480 nm) can completely suppress nighttime melatonin and guess what wavelengths a cell phone screen emits? There is no infrared or ultraviolet light from cell phones. Of 35 cell phones tested, the blue peak at 450 nm had twice as much power as the yellow ( 545 nm) light and red (603 nm) light. The combination of colors makes the light from a cell phone resemble a white LED bulb.