Friday, August 19, 2011

The Undiscovered Side of Science & Life - 3

One of the mysterious, yet exciting jobs people can have is in the vast field of scientific research.

People working in that field function somewhat like weather radar, and other types of radar.

At least in the sense that they are constantly probing to find understanding that is just ahead, understanding that currently is still just outside the boundaries of our human knowledge at that moment in time.

Some of their discoveries quite recently are not anywhere near ho-hum, to say the very least, rather they are Earth shaking.

We will get to those new discoveries, but first remember that according to the Big Bang Theory the essence of elements evolved shortly after the big bang, which was during the nucleosynthesis phase.

Those "elements" that developed can in general be called the first "machines", i.e. the first non-organic entities.

Thereafter according to the theory, microbes, i.e. organic entities, formed from those early machines that had already developed:
"Our cells, and the cells of all organisms, are composed of molecular machines. These machines are built of component parts, each of which contributes a partial function or structural element to the machine. How such sophisticated, multi-component machines could evolve has been somewhat mysterious, and highly controversial." Professor Lithgow said.
"François Jacob described evolution as a tinkerer, cobbling together proteins of one function to yield more complex machines capable of new functions." Professor Lithgow said.

"Our work describes a perfect example of Jacob's proposition, and shows that Darwin's theory of evolution beautifully explains how molecular machines came to be."
(Will Humans Evolve Into Machines?, quoting Professor Trevor Lithgow). In the fairly recent past researchers have discovered that microbes which evolved from machines are the oldest and the most abundant life forms on the planet Earth:
Single-celled microorganisms were the first forms of life to develop on Earth, approximately 3–4 billion years ago. Further evolution was slow, and for about 3 billion years in the Precambrian eon, all organisms were microscopic. So, for most of the history of life on Earth the only forms of life were microorganisms.
(A Structure RE: The Corruption of Memes - 4). The nickname for microorganisms is "microbes" (we call them the little people sometimes).

Researchers quite recently have discovered that microbes are everywhere around us, and are even very abundant in the atmosphere we breathe:
Every cubic meter of air holds up to 100 million microorganisms, but the diversity and behavior of these microbes remains masked to microbiologists — until recently, that is ... microbes also help create the intricately beautiful designs in snowflakes and facilitate the formation of clouds ... Recent research published in PNAS suggests that the diversity of microbial life in the air is on par with the soil, at least in urban areas, yet the air remains vastly understudied in comparison.
(Soupy Sales and Evolutionary Tales - 2). These microbes are active in and around us, in the air, in the water, and in the soil, but we we don't know nearly enough about them.

Researchers have also recently discovered the astonishing reality that humans have a symbiont, yes, we are in a symbiotic relationship with microbes, but we don't yet have much of a clue about what that really means:
As they look beyond the genome ... researchers are ... awakening to the fact that some 90 percent of the protein-encoding cells in our body are microbes. We evolved with them in a symbiotic relationship, which raises the question of just who is occupying whom.

Altogether ... 99 percent of the functional genes in the body are microbial.

... genes in this microbiome — exchanging messages with genes inside human cells ...

... shifts in perspective, occurring throughout cellular biology ... seem as dizzying as what happened in cosmology ... issues once thought settled are up in the air.
(The Tiniest Scientists Are Very Old - 2). One of those issues "once thought settled" is the human appendix, which, as it turns out, Darwin was wrong about when he called it the "vestigial appendix", because it too is now known to be associated with microbes:
"Maybe it's time to correct the textbooks," says William Parker, Ph.D., assistant professor of surgical sciences at Duke and the senior author of the study. "Many biology texts today still refer to the appendix as a 'vestigial organ.'"
The lowly appendix, long-regarded as a useless evolutionary artifact, won newfound respect two years ago when researchers at Duke University Medical Center proposed that it actually serves a critical function. The appendix, they said, is a safe haven where good bacteria [microbes] could hang out until they were needed to repopulate the gut after a nasty case of diarrhea, for example.
"Darwin simply didn't have access to the information we have," explains Parker. "If Darwin had been aware of the species that have an appendix attached to a large cecum, and if he had known about the widespread nature of the appendix, he probably would not have thought of the appendix as a vestige of evolution."
(The Appendix of Vestigial Textbooks - 2). So these most ancient of life forms are under us, around us, over us, and more importantly in us:
The implications for human development are certainly not yet realized, but could be profound. Our anxiety, motor control, and even cognitive pathways are implicated in this paper. Microbes may indeed be subtly changing our brain early on — and for what purposes we cannot yet say. The article would imply that this interaction is beneficial to us, and thus indirectly to our microbiota, but the mere fact that microorganisms can shape our minds brings up many more questions about how humans develop their identity.
(A Structure RE: The Corruption of Memes - 4). Notice the implications these discoveries have for health care:
U.S. spending on mental illness is soaring at a faster pace than spending on any other health care category, new government data released Wednesday shows. The cost of treating mental disorders rose sharply between 1996 and 2006, from $35 billion (in 2006 dollars) to almost $58 billion, according to the report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. At the same time, the report showed, the number of Americans who sought treatment for depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health woes almost doubled, from 19 million to 36 million. The new statistics come on the heels of a study, released Monday, that found antidepressant use among U.S. residents almost doubled between a similar time frame, 1996 and 2005"...

The emotional impact of traumatic events can have devastating effects on the mental well-being of individuals of all ages. For many, it is easy to focus all energies on helping other people or on maintaining daily schedules and routines. Although these efforts deserve attention, it is important to remember to take care of yourself and to monitor your own emotions during difficult times.
(Health Care Includes Mental Health? - 2). Since microbes take part in our genetics, brain function, body functions, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the Earth we walk on, even fifth graders know that we are sane to treat microbes well but insane to treat microbes badly (e.g. with catastrophic pollution).

We must ask and answer the question: "What does pollution do to the microbes we depend on for our consciousness and our existence?"

The previous post in this series is here.


  1. Your comment system appears to be broken. :(

    Trying once more as anonymous, apologies in advance for double post...
    - melior

    Thanks for the link from 3QD, Dredd.

    Have you read earlier this year about lifesaving poo transplants? It's hard not to feel this may be part of a major new understanding of medicine.

  2. Anonymous,

    Google manages the comment system. I will check it out with this comment in reply to yours.

    The "poo transplants" are actually "transplants" of microbes.

    If you read the quotes about the human appendix, in the post above, you would surmise that the ignorant, surgical removal of the human appendix causes the need for such a transplant.

    The reason is that the human appendix is "the bank" where microbes are stored for later use.

    Swapping shit among people is a problem caused by Darwinian medicine that assumed the appendix was vestigial.

    If the medical profession gets their shit together this time the shit transplant error will become vestigial and we will go back to a normal appendix medical philosophy as it should be.

  3. melior,

    It seems to be working fine now.