Into the 10^-5matrix
July 23, 2021 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Looking at soil life on its own terms: adding tiny structures to soil to capture processes that rely on the physics of small. Great stuff for seeing something that surrounds us but is impossible to see unaided. There's a lot of soil research that has started with taking samples of the top 15cm and shaking it up in water, which is the only way to reliably grow *some* things, but we know kills others. How to see how others really live?
posted by clew (12 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I have always been fascinated by the fact that the earth is covered in a layer of, basically, regolith and bacteria. And we just live our lives like that's normal like, "Oh, I got some stuff on my pant leg that is a mixture of powdered planetary crust and living organic matter."
posted by Horkus at 11:57 AM on July 23 [2 favorites]

i liked the photo of the robot lunching on tarry gruel.
posted by 20 year lurk at 12:12 PM on July 23

We're just layers of regolith and bacteria! (Your FACE...! (sorry, spent a day with tweens.))

But seriously, the incredibly organized fine structure in soil has been known for at least a century and has been impenetrable even to observation until quite recently. Soil couples enough different Reynolds scales to make lively mathematics, too -- I think the Buckingham of Buckingham's Pi looked into it and made gloomy prognostications of its tractability, but I can't find that quote.
posted by clew at 12:15 PM on July 23 [3 favorites]

This is cool.
posted by agentofselection at 12:36 PM on July 23

I am reminded of the possibly apocryphal incident where the Reverend Spooner opened his address to an assembly of farmers with "Ye noble tons of soil!"

I like to think the farmers must have appreciated the inadvertent aptness of that.
posted by jamjam at 1:02 PM on July 23 [4 favorites]

Wow, what a find clew. The paper text is amazing - fluidics and soils and mycorrhizae, three favourite topics! Am currently constructing soil over a large area and this is welcome news and info - thanks again.

We still know little about soil, this paper offers a new fine-scale and (hopefully) more affordable pathway. As funding has become harder to obtain soil depth studies have become, well, shallower, with study depth halving (from 53cm, 1989) to now - How deep is the soil studied.

Meanwhile a very few studies have looked at recalcitrant (resistant to gasifying) deep soil carbon down to metres (normally from soils where trees have never grown). 'Rewilding' / thoughtless tree planting will make the situation much worse by rooting into these deep layers and gasifying them (aka Carbon priming).
posted by unearthed at 2:13 PM on July 23 [3 favorites]

"Carbon priming" sounds like loading a chunk of charcoal into a crossbow or slingshot or suchlike.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:40 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]

Metafilter: a mixture of powdered planetary crust and living organic matter.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:00 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]

I'd make a great ciliate.
posted by Cezar Golescu at 9:28 PM on July 23

Hell, we're finding life-like stuff (DNA) in soil which we don't even know what it is! Mysterious DNA sequences, known as ‘Borgs,’ recovered from California mud [Science Magazine]
posted by hippybear at 10:09 PM on July 23

"Oh, I got some stuff on my pant leg that is a mixture of powdered planetary crust and living organic matter."
Considering that you, your pant leg, the powdered planetary crust, and the living organic matter are all basically mixtures of supernova ash, your point is?
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 9:16 AM on July 26

I like dirt better than I like people, so this is great, thank you.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:36 PM on July 27

« Older Cleveland Baseball Team Renames Itself   |   TONIGHT WE HAVE BEEN WATCHING A CLOWN-DISCO. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments