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Sunday August 20 2017

A Love Potion: The Chemistry of Romance

Though Valentine’s Day has past, put down that heart-shaped chocolate, burn those roses and stop rereading those cheesy love poems. Such sentimentalities won’t foster a loving relationship, because love is not some abstract emotional response. It is not something inexplicable.

Instead, it’s just chemistry.

Before I explain further, let me dissuade any possible illusions. No, my heart wasn’t bitterly broken (though V-Day has a terrible similarity to D-Day), nor am I of the opinion that Valentine’s Day should be changed into the more fitting holiday “Single Awareness Day,” or SAD for short. Rather, I am a chemist and as a result, I have an affinity for attraction, contrary to what my ex-girlfriends may say.

Don’t let the glasses, calculator or number of theories delude you. All of it, from the lab coat to the overbite, have made me understand that chemistry and love are the same thing, a constant in the equation of life some may say. There cannot be one without the other, no matter how hard one tries to split the two like atoms.

Sure, some will rebuke the idea that love is even remotely related to chemistry. They’ll question my conclusion. They’ll demonstrate passionate examples of unconditional emotion. They’ll even think it preposterous that I reduce something as inexplicable as love as if it were some mathematical formula, something to be measured. In the end, they’ll feel that they are literally and figuratively being attacked right in the heart.

Bearing the criticism, I dare ask where would any of us be without chemistry. From unicellular organisms to bipedal mammals, humanity’s timeline bubbles with the cream of chemical reactions. Beginning with the Big Bang, Goldilock conditions unraveled the cosmos. A once imperceptibly dense darkness becomes a sparse, chaotic universe. From there, energy shattered, quarks formed and all of a sudden, human beings bustled into existence after billions upon billions of years of evolution.

In a way, humanity’s existence is not one of choice; it is because we are all connected. From stardust to human flesh to all the other molecular arrangements feasible, we have become beautiful creations.

This is owed entirely to chemistry. Your life, dear reader, is no different. Consider that approximately x amount of years, y amount of months and z amount of weeks ago you were little more than a mothball of cells. In the human Big Bang; or sex, as it is commonly known, sperm met ovum, ovum met sperm, and soon the iterative process of life began. Cells became tissue. Tissue took shape. Waterfall upon waterfall of hormones swelled together. And what was once an amorphous blob of goo became something more than it’s indistinctness could ever mask: you.

It is this science – the analysis and subsequent understanding of the complex processes that form us – that explain why love is but chemistry. Despite how we came into being, we stand as a testament of what a few buckets of water can become. That is to say, we became a chemical equation that can breathe, play catch, eat, complain, fart around, and most importantly, love.

In the end, love is chemistry because we are. As walking-talking chemical reactions, we attempt to stoichiometrically balance our relationships. Counting the moles on our body, we determine the weight of our heart, and let it beat until equilibrium is reached. We search for love, and love searches for us. Kisses become our pipettes; laughs, our titrations. In the chemistry of love, we all try to win the Nobel Prize.

But while this may be true, what does it matter if one can dissect the world in front of them? Attempting to break everything down into a timeline is irrelevant if one doesn’t live in the present. The same could be said of analyzing love as a science. While many can explain love as a cocktail of serotonin and dopamine or as the orgy of materials colliding seductively, even if one understands how the mechanism works, that does not make them a lover.

So while both life and love necessarily needs chemistry, they are one of the many ways to describe the world. Another way of describing it would be to say: where would any of us, the chemical cesspools that we are, be without love?

Or perhaps better stated is what would chemistry be without love?

If you don’t have an answer, that’s OK. Oxygen and Potassium is all you need anyhow. It’s the stuff of love and more importantly, bananas.

By Kacper Niburski

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References:

Ellis, J. Hagelin, J. Supersymmetric relics from the big bang. Nuclear Physics, 1984. 238, 453-476.

Tomlinson, M. Moffat, O. Manicardi, G. Bizzaro, D. Interrelationships between seminal parameters and sperm nuclear DNA damage before and after densitry gradient centrifugation: implications for assisted conception. Human Reproduction. 2001. 16, 2160-2165.

Marazziti, D. Asiskal, H. Rossi, A. Cassano, G. B. Alteration of the platelet serotonin transporter in romantic love. 1999, 29. 741 – 745.

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The Meducator is McMaster University’s undergraduate Health Sciences Journal. It publishes pieces that critically address current issues with a high degree of scientific rigor, but in a way that is accessible to a broad audience.

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