Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The minimum that is the maximum

We often consider what is small as something smaller. Therein lies the danger. In life, the details can never be forgotten


 I have a special attraction for the themes of the natural sciences. I love reading about the advances of medicine and engineering, and I particularly like the discoveries of biology, after all, I have been a teacher of this discipline for more than two decades. And I have noticed that the discoveries are increasingly concentrated on the small details that explain this phenomenon that we call life. Recently I read an old text about a research conducted by a German chemist named Justus von Liebig, considered the father of organic chemistry, the one that studies the chemical compounds based on Carbon, and which give body to living organisms. Our body is organic chemistry in dynamic state. And so is the whole life of the planet. Liebig, whose alma mater is the University of Bonn (Germany), enunciated a law that ended up getting a curious name, and which reinforces the importance of paying attention to details. It is called the Law of the Minimum, whose statement is of a bewildering simplicity: "The success of an organism in an environment depends on that no survival factor exceeds its tolerance limit". Tolerance limit? What is it? Let's see. What he has discovered is that in order for a living being to remain alive all the factors necessary for its survival must be present, there is no point in overcoming some if at least one component, however small, is missing. There will only be life with everything that makes it up. Wow!! That explains a lot, not just biology. What Liebig rightly concluded is that "the organism is no stronger than the weakest link in its ecological chain of needs." Makes perfect sense, does not it? Studying agriculture, he realized, for example, that many crops waned, not because of the lack of the necessary nutrients in large quantities, such as water and carbon dioxide, but because of the lack of a substance that the plant needs in minute quantities, such as zinc. Over time, the Law of Minimum has been applied to other areas, such as management and economics, and studied by other sciences, such as psychology. It is natural, say psychologists, that the attention of the brain is directed to abundant components in the constitution of any phenomenon. Everything that is small, because it is smaller, is automatically considered less important. And therein lies the danger. I remember a personal experience that struck me on the subject of "small details." I once took a motorcycle trip to Cuzco, Peru, from Sao Paulo. It may seem like a dangerous adventure, but, when surrounded by proper care, is quiet, though exciting. The bikes are good, the equipment protects, the experience gives security. I traveled in the company of my friend Julio, who, among other things, has the title of first Brazilian to have been in both poles of the planet. His book Rumo dos Polos (Alegro) has breathtaking passages. Taking advantage of the less rainy season of August, we took the road, crossing the states of. And Mato Grosso do Sul, where we made a stop, before crossing the border with the Andean country. We left the bikes parked at the hotel in Rio Branco, whose owner, besides being friendly, also enjoyed traveling on two wheels, and returned to Sao Paulo by plane, to meet some professional demands. I, among other things, I had to attend a human resources conference, of which I have been a member of the organization for more than ten years. It was a busy week, but my head was thrilled with the sequel to the adventure. When the day arrived, we met at the airport to continue our journey. Flying to Rio Branco is not the same as taking a flight to Rio de Janeiro. There are few flights and the journey is long. By motorcycle, running nearly 900 miles a day, we took five intense days. By plane, we could have crossed Europe at the same time. As Brazil is great ... Upon arriving at the hotel, we went straight to see our beloved machines. They were there, quiet, beautiful, eager to get on the road again. I swear I almost saw my KTM Adventure swing the rear mudguard when it saw me. I stroked his gas tank, I pressed my tires to feel the pressure and at that moment my heart stopped ... I realized that in the rush to leave the house, after a hectic week, I threw everything I needed to continue the trip in my backpack, less ... just a little detail: the key to the bike. A 300-kilo motorcycle, suited to a rally, equipped with a 1000-cc motor, loaded with locally-oriented, protective and convenience equipment, carefully arranged, turned into a totally inert metallic mass without a tiny blade of stainless steel with grooves drawn on its surface, capable of allowing its perfect fit into a hole in its modern cockpit, giving rise to ignition, snoring, movement. Without a key, without a motorcycle. No road. Nothing. In my imagination, Liebig smiled as if to say: "I did not speak?". The Law of the Minimum was being applied with all intensity and cruelty. The only alternative was to get the key in time to continue the journey. But how to send an order on a weekend? Three to four days would be needed. That's when the value of fellowship came true. Lu, my wife, who would fly with Sandra, Julius's wife, to meet us in Cuzco and then visit Machu Pichu, flew to Brasilia and from there got a connection to Rio Branco with the key in her bag. That's what love is, my friends say ... There is a limit of tolerance. From there, Lu had to cross the Peruvian Amazon by bus to Puerto Maldonado, where he then got a plane to the land of the Incas. Thank you, my love ... In the meantime, the motorcycle-forget-racer pilot was still on the Pacific Highway. Indeed, Such small details should be things too big to forget. In chemistry. On the bike. In the wedding. In business. In life...
by Eugenio Mussak

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