The Hounds of Tindalos, Part 4: Can Life Exist Without Enzymes?

hound_of_tindalos_experiment_2_by_kingovrats-d6c30bz  The Hounds of Tindalos – Experiment 2 by KingOvRats (www.deviantart.com)

An excerpt from Frank Belknap Long’s “The Hounds of Tindalos”

Report of James Morton, chemist and bacteriologist:

            My dear Mr. Douglas:

            The fluid sent to me for analysis is the most peculiar that I have ever examined. It resembles living protoplasm, but it lacks the peculiar substances known as enzymes. Enzymes catalyze the chemical reactions occurring in living cells, and when the cell dies they cause it to disintegrate by hydrolyzation. Without enzymes protoplasm should possess enduring vitality, i.e., immortality. Enzymes are the negative components, so to speak, of unicellular organism, which is the basic of all life. That living matter can exist without enzymes biologists emphatically deny. And yet the substance that you have sent me is alive and it lacks these “indispensable” bodies. Good God, sir, you realize what astounding new vistas this opens up?

This report at the conclusion of Frank Belknap Long’s “The Hounds of Tindalos” is one of the rare instances where a direct scientific analysis was conducted on an entity thought to originate from beyond our Space-Time. I want to address two points made by Mr. Morton in his report. First, Morton mentions that the blue, viscus, biological material sent to him lacked enzymes, which are essentially globular proteins that catalyze almost all biological reactions in cells (more on this later). However, I want to analyze his statement – “Without enzymes protoplasm should possess enduring vitality…”

The development and use of the microscope in the 17th century by Antoine van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hooke revealed a microscopic world of unicellular life, such as the animalcules, as well as the idea that cells were the biological building blocks of organisms. As microscopes became more powerful the details within the cells revealed components such as organelles and cytoplasm. Initially, the material inside the cell was called protoplasm and thought of as a mystical substance that gave life its “vital” forces; such ideas were thought to correlate well with Aristotle’s concept of the soul, which lead to the concept of vitalism (Life on the Edge: The Coming Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili, 2014).  Vitalism was a popular idea in the 19th century and essentially stated that life was animated by a special force absent from non-living material.

antonie-van-leeuwenhoek-animalcules                                                                          Illustration of some of the animalcules Antoine van Leeuwenhoek observed in his microscope (www.famousscientists.org)

Through the 19th century and into the early 20th century biochemical compounds were identified within the cell and subsequently synthesized in the laboratory.  Eventually these compounds were called enzymes and it was eventually revealed that they operate under the same natural laws of physics and chemistry of non-living matter, vitalism gave way to mechanistic materialism (Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili, 2014).  H.P. Lovecraft was a firm materialist so he would not have been very supportive of vitalism.  In contrast, Long had a completely different view of vitalism in “The Hounds of Tindalos,” where enzymes are the negative component of the cell, limiting the potential for vitality to secure immortality. So what exactly are enzymes?

Enzymes are essentially catalysts to biochemical functions. This means they essentially “speed up” (by “speeding up” they lower the activation energy threshold so the reaction can occur) biochemical reactions that otherwise would move at a rate far too slow for life to exist (Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili, 2014).  For example, collagenase is an enzyme that breakdown down animal collagen fibers. In the presence of this enzyme this form of decomposition takes about 30 minutes; however, in its absence it would take more than 68 million years. Clearly, enzymes are “vital” to life on Earth.

tindalos 900pKLTurner_lovecraftbestiary.blogspot.com Hound of Tindalos by K.L. Turner (www.lovecraftbestiary.blogspot.com)

According to the report provided by Morton enzymes are a “negative component” of life, responsible for the eventual death of the cell. In fact, enzymes are better described as “the engines of life” (Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili, 2014).  All of life, at least life as we understand it, depends on enzymes for its operation. From metabolism, to photosynthesis, to respiration, to decomposition, to the replication of DNA, all biochemical activities are reactions depends on enzymes. In a way, enzymes can be thought of as little biological nanomachines.

If the Hounds of Tindalos have no enzymes, as least as we recognize enzymes as globular proteins, how do their biochemical reactions operate? A number of hypotheses are being proposed.

  1. While the globular protein enzymes are the catalysts for life on Earth, many some other organic or inorganic substance serves as the catalyst for the Hounds physiology. For example, a simple mixture of hydrogen gas and oxygen gas has no recreation; however, if finely divided platinum is added, an explosive reaction occurs and water is created (Elements of Biological Science by William T. Keeton and Carol Hardy McFadden, 1983). The platinum (an inorganic element) is the catalyst in this reaction. Thus, in Hound physiology, some otherwise unknown or unidentified element or compound may serve as the catalyst, or enzyme.

 

  1. An alternative hypothesis is based on the fact that if the Hounds themselves are not just from another Universe but are entirely out of Space-Time (of our Universe or others) then time may not work for them as it does for us. Their biochemistry may not be limited to the constraints of our Space-Time, even when they enter ours. This means that their biochemistry is not “time-dependent” like ours and thus may function without the need for catalysts such as enzymes. Of course this may indicate that their existence in our Space-Time may be very limited or even fleeting; staying too long in our Space-Time, the Hounds may eventually succumb to the erosion of time and their biochemistry may cease to function.

 

  1. Yet another hypothesis may be associated with the fledging field of quantum biology, which attempts to explain and predict biology (particularly at the biochemical level) using concepts developed through quantum mechanics. This would be a whole series of articles onto themselves and may aid in our attempts to understand the Old Ones; however, for now this discussion will be limited to the subject of enzymes. From a quantum perspective, enzymes (catalysts in general) can be understood through Transition State Theory (TST). The intermediate stage between prior to and after the enzyme has reduced the activation energy threshold to accomplish its biochemical goal is called the Transition State. It is hypothesized that the Hounds from Tindalos can somehow keep their atoms in a perpetual transitional state, avoiding the need for enzymes. Such “quantum tunneling” would avoid the need to overcome the activation energy threshold in our standard biochemical reactions.

 

212_Enzymes-01_www.cnx.org Enzymes lower the activation energy threshold to allow biochemical reactions to occur faster.  Do the Hounds of Tindalos avoid this through “quantum tunneling?” (www.cnx.org)

Of course there may be other alternative hypotheses or we as a species in this Space-Time may be unable to comprehend how the biology of the Hounds of Tindalos even operates. Our limited five senses may be unable to understand the Hounds. However, even if this is the case, this will not stop us continuing to attempt to under the nature of entities from outside of our Universe or even Space-Time. Next time we wrap up our discussion on “The Hounds of Tindalos.” Thank you – Fred.

a_hound_of_tindalos_by_dhaem17                                A Hound of Tindalos by Dhaem17 (www.deivantart.com)

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4 thoughts on “The Hounds of Tindalos, Part 4: Can Life Exist Without Enzymes?

  1. Another hypothesis from a forensic medic: it is possible that founded material don’t even belong to the Hounds, but was the biological tissues of Chalmers, altered in result of contact with alien entity. This hypothesis is confirmed indirectly by the fact that there wasn’t blood in the room of Chalmers.

    1. Good point and interesting hypothesis. The blue substance may actually be his blood that somehow reacted to some of the biological matter fro the Hounds! Thank you for the comment! Fred.

  2. Anyone who found this interesting should certainly look at the IFC web series “Mirror” about a Tindalos cult that excessively drinks water. Water is essential for enzymes to function, so it is a possibility that water is poisonous to life without enzymes. I always love reading this blog, and it always gives me really great insight into Lovecraft’s work. Keep it up!

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