Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet

Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet


The reason some popular posts are tagged ‘no title’ is not because they have no title—they all do—but because the old Blogger embedded the title at the top of text, and the new software does not see that. You can see the titles in capitals at the start of each snippet. (It would be nice if Blogger introduced an upgrade program that could fix this little problem.)

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Monday 9 October 2006


They also show us the way to a true democracy.

The September/October 2006 issue of Update, the magazine for members of the New York Academy of Sciences, has a piece headed Microbial Chatter, How Bacteria Talk to Each Other, which outlines the researches of Bonnie Hassler, a molecular biologist at Princeton University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

'She has found that bacteria like to live in complex multi-species communities and their ability to communicate and co-operate is essential to their survival,' says the magazine. Amongst other abilities, they are 'multilingual' (via signalling molecules called auto-inducers), and they have a communications system called 'quorum sensing' in which the majority rules. A single bacteria expressing what might be called an auto-inducer opinion cannot persuade group action; that happens only when a large number express it in unison. There are three main types of auto-inducers. One of them enables cross-species communications: 'An example of this ability for mixed-species consortia to talk among themselves is evident on our teeth: 600 species are there every morning in precisely the same organisation as the night before. The only way they can build their complicated biofilms is to know precisely what other cells are out there and to use the information to function effectively as a working conglomerate.'

Meanwhile, in the brains a few centimetres above those teeth there is touching faith in the notion that our system of government is a democracy, that it truly is 'government of the people, by the people, for the people', when it is nothing but an elected dictatorship--it is government of the people, by a few people, for some people. The bacteria have true a democracy. Every bug has an auto-inducer voice, every voice counts, and the action of the group is decided by the majority in unison. A molecular opinion expressed by only a few bugs is ignored.

Poor people. How sad! They have less organisational sense than the bugs on their teeth.