I am a Christian. I believe in the God of the Bible, in God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. I believe in Genesis 1:1 - "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (NIV)" I am a biochemist and a pharmacist by education. As such I have a desire to understand nature. I am writing this blog as my way to express the facts of true science as I understand them, from the perspective of one who believes that all things were created by God, for God and for His purposes.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Balance and Equilibrium - the Chemistry of pH

Where I work there is frequent talk of "Work/Life Balance", balancing our time between the two, you know like "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Well that is easier said than done! These days work and home life can both be very stressful. Sometimes it is easier to go to work after a hectic vacation because we fill our personal lives up with so much that it can be a break to go back to work! You can feel like you have to "punch the clock" at home just as you do at work.

In some ways, pH is like that, it is a balancing act of Hydrogen ions, H+, and Hydroxy ions, OH-, in water. You might remember from high school that pH stands for the inverse of the "parts Hydrogen" or “power of Hydrogen” in a solution. A pH of 1 is 1 part (mols) of H+ per ten parts (liters) water or a concentration of 10-1 Hydrogen ions. The pH scale is a measure of the hydrogen ion concentration in water. Scientifically it is expressed as the negative log10 of [H+] (in mols/liter).

Thinking of the pH of a liquid, it can span a scale from 0 to 14 with the middle point (pH 7) being neutral. Any pH number greater than 7 is considered basic and any pH number less than 7 is considered acidic. Each whole pH value below 7 is ten times more acidic than the next higher value. For example, a pH of 4 is ten times more acidic than a pH of 5 and 100 times (10 times 10) more acidic than a pH of 6. The same holds true going up the scale for pH values above 7, each of which is ten times more alkaline - another way to say basic - than the next lower whole value.

The word "balance", as in pH balanced - think skin cleansers and shampoo, suggests a static condition, like Lady Justice holding the scales in her hands or when we balance hours in a day - eight hours at work, eight hours at home (life) and eight hours sleeping.

In our spiritual life balance would equate to keeping the Ten Commandments. Of course I can refrain from murder or adultery in the strictest sense and can keep what appears to be the letter of the law, balancing my sins with good behavior. This is the "Works" mentality - if I am good enough and my good outweighs my bad, on what I think is the scale of God's Justice, I will go to Heaven. But Galatians 2:16 (NIV) says "Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ." and Romans 3:20 (NIV) says "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin."

There is more to life - physically and spiritually, and to pH, than just balancing the hours, good deeds or Hydrogen ions. Life and pH are dynamic conditions where things are constantly changing, even when they appear to be in balance. When from the outside looking in everything appears to be in balance, in spite of constant changes, we call it "equilibrium."

Equilibrium is when a system appears in a state of balance because opposing forces cancel one another out or reversible reactions take place at equal rates. You can see this when trying to ”balance” on one foot. You feel your muscles constantly shifting ever so slightly to keep your body stable. The pH of a solution actually is not a static group of Hydrogen ions floating around in a pool of water. The positive Hydrogen ions are constantly combining with and separating from the negatively charged Hydroxy ions (or other ions in solution) in a chemical dance that maintains what appears to be a balanced system.

God too wants our lives to be in equilibrium, keeping things in balance by constantly adjusting to the changes in life. He gave us the Ten Commandments, not as a set of rules to follow but, as a basis for us to see our weaknesses and how far we are from His righteousness. Although we might not murder, we can and do get angry with our brother and thus fall short. But if our hearts are constantly striving to be like Jesus, we will repent and keep our "spiritual pH" in equilibrium with God.

He wants us to be constantly balancing our spiritual with our physical in such a way as to shine His light upon the darkness. Colossians 3:2 (NKJV) says “Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth” and 1 John 2:15a & 17b (NKJV) says "Do not love the world or the things in the world... but he who does the will of God abides forever." I am sure you have heard it said "don't be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good." Well we must be heavenly minded to do any earthly good but not to the point where we miss the purpose God has for putting us here in the first place! James 2:22 (NIV) says "You see that his (Abraham's) faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did." Our Faith must be in "equilibrium" with our actions for us to be considered righteous in the eyes of God. James 2:24 (NIV) - "You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone."

A balanced pH is critical to our physical bodies
as is a balanced spiritual life in Christ
with His Word embedded in our hearts

To our physical bodies, the equilibrium of our internal pH is critical. The acid in our stomachs has a pH of about 3 to help our enzymes digest the foods we eat. With a pH this low, it is no wonder we get heartburn! In our intestines the pH is higher, sometimes crossing from acidic to alkaline, starting about 6 and going up to 8 near the end of the small intestines. This helps our bodies absorb important parts of food, such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Our blood has an average pH of 7.4, just slightly alkaline. If our blood pH drops much below this number, it can be very serious. Many of our body’s chemical reactions, especially those involving proteins, are pH-dependent. If the pH drops below 7.0 or rises above 7.8, death may occur. Fortunately, we have buffers in the blood to protect against large changes in our physiological pH.

Buffers are chemicals in a solution that keep the pH from changing when another acidic or basic solution is added. Buffer solutions contain a weak acid/base pair, such as carbonic acid (H2CO3) and bicarbonate (HCO3), a buffer pair that is present in the blood. These acid/base pairs achieve their resistance to pH change because of the equilibrium between the two chemicals. The effect on the pH by the addition of an external solution will be reduced due to this buffering action.

Our spiritual buffer to the words of the world is the Word of God, the Bible. When our spiritual pH moves out of that ideal range, when we are attacked by the enemy, we can buffer those worldly influences by reading and meditating on the Word. It will put our heart back in balance with God's heart. Our body, mind and soul must always be in equilibrium so we can live out Paul's admonition to "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)), be in the world but not of the world and be like Christ. Only by meditating on His Word and focusing on the Wisdom He has hidden there, can we truly maintain an equilibrium with the plans He has for us.

Psalms 119:11 (NIV) - I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Proverbs 2:10 (NIV) - For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Psalms 56:4 (NIV) - In God, whose Word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
Luke 24:27 (NIV) - And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He (Jesus) explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Colossians 3:16 (NIV) - Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.