04w23:1 Bacteria

by timothy. 0 Comments

Good Reads Mailing List | 2004 week 23 number 2 (bacteria)

Autopoiesis and the Grand Scheme | Greg Bear
“…bacteria engage in sex for the sheer desperate necessary joy of it – sex is their visit to the community library, the communal cookbook. They wriggle themselves through seas of recipes, little circular bits of DNA called plasmids. […] In the very beginning, for bacteria, this was sex. This was how sex began, as a visit to the great extended library. I call this data sex. No bacterium can exist for long without touching base with its colleagues, its peers. […] In the Library of Congress, every single book, every item, began with an act of reproductive sex, allowing the author to get born and eventually to write a book. That book now acts as a kind of plasmid, reaching into your mind to alter your memory, which is the con-template — my word: the template, through cognition , of behavior. The medium of course is language. Sex is language, and language is sex, whatever form it takes. […] Like the bacteria, as social animals, we engage in communal sharing of information. We call it education, and the result is culture. The shape of our society relies on spoken and written language, the language of signs, the next level of language above the molecular. […] Culture from very early times was as much a factor in human survival as biology, and today, culture has subsumed biology. The language of signs inherent in science and mathematics has co-opted the power of molecular language. […] Unfortunately, in the ocean of empty space, we have yet to receive packets of data from other planetary cells. We are like a single bacterium squirming through a primordial sea, hoping to find others like itself, or at least find recipes and clues about what to do next. […] We send out spaceships between the planets, the stars, containing our own little recipes, our own clues, like hopeful plasmids.”

The Bacteria Whisperer | Steve Silberman
“The notion that microbes have anything to say to each other is surprisingly new. For more than a century, bacterial cells were regarded as single-minded opportunists, little more than efficient machines for self-replication. Flourishing in plant and animal tissue, in volcanic vents and polar ice, thriving on gasoline additives and radiation, they were supremely adaptive, but their lives seemed, well, boring. The ‘sole ambition’ of a bacterium, wrote geneticist François Jacob in 1973, is ‘to produce two bacteria.’ New research suggests, however, that microbial life is much richer: highly social, intricately networked, and teeming with interactions. Bassler and other researchers have determined that bacteria communicate using molecules comparable to pheromones. By tapping into this cell-to-cell network, microbes are able to collectively track changes in their environment, conspire with their own species, build mutually beneficial alliances with other types of bacteria, gain advantages over competitors, and communicate with their hosts – the sort of collective strategizing typically ascribed to bees, ants, and people, not to bacteria.” Article Date: April 2003 | This is a followup to a profile on Bonnie Bassler published in Scientific American earlier this year and that was part of Goodreads posting 04w3:2

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emailed by Timothy on Tuesday 01 June 2004 @ 4:32 PM (

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