The Bacteria Whisperer
March 21, 2003 8:44 AM   Subscribe

The Bacteria Whisperer
“Bonnie Bassler discovered a secret about microbes that the science world has missed for centuries. The bugs are talking to each other. And plotting against us.”
posted by o2b (13 comments total)
Anybody who's read this book knows to be scared shitless by this.
posted by signal at 8:55 AM on March 21, 2003

Great. Now we can free the piggies from the curse of the descolada.
posted by tayknight at 9:03 AM on March 21, 2003

What a great link! All this human chatter about human wars but.......

Meanwhile,the bacteria are busily chatting amongst themselves, having lively little conversations and strategy sessions about how to deal with the "Human Problem".

posted by troutfishing at 9:14 AM on March 21, 2003

I, for one, ..... ah forget it.
posted by Espoo2 at 9:18 AM on March 21, 2003

tayknight, I most energetically protest your use of the hate-speech term "piggies" to refer to our Pequeninho friends and allies. Also, is this the best time to bring up Xenocide?
posted by signal at 9:22 AM on March 21, 2003

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.

Sounds like a Sprint commercial.
posted by orange swan at 9:24 AM on March 21, 2003

Do they communicate using cellular phones? (sorry)
posted by wanderingmind at 9:30 AM on March 21, 2003

Great. Now we can free the piggies from the curse of the descolada.

But the trees, they can talk.
posted by witchstone at 9:51 AM on March 21, 2003

Bassler's research points to new ways of fighting disease that will aim not to kill but to scramble data in the bacterial network. One approach would be to block the receptors that receive the molecular signals so that cells never become virulent; another would target the DNA-replication mechanisms set in motion inside cells when the signals are received.

Wouldn't we be better off using this to negotiate for more symbiotic relationships? "I for one..." jokes aside, I am quite serious. We should find out if there is any communication going on between our bodies and the bacteria we already have symbiotic (and not so symbiotic) relationships with. Then, starting with that, start building alliances.

What if we could find a way to work out our differences with the bacteria in our mouths? Think about it—always fresh breath, no more flossing (Listerine would be outlawed). That's only the beginning. It gets weirder after that.
posted by wobh at 10:02 AM on March 21, 2003

I, for one, find the account of the shadowless squid unbelievably fantastical.
What a marvelous world this is!
posted by kozad at 10:03 AM on March 21, 2003

Its astonishing the person who can create their own research. She sounds like an amazing person. She must have rings on her eyes and brain like a beautician.
posted by xtian at 10:22 AM on March 21, 2003

scared shitless

Actually, Lewis Thomas has a great essay in which he points out that the human body is essentially a sea of bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms. Most of them are benign, some are essential. When they do make us sick, it's generally our immune response that does the most damage. The viruses and bacteria that are directly harmful are, in a way, broken, and stand a much smaller chance of reproducing successfully.

The book is The Lives of a Cell. Don't read it straight through, the kinda precious tone and the repetition of themes will do you in. Great to dip into now and then though.
posted by lbergstr at 1:32 PM on March 21, 2003

Great link o2b!
And it's not as if I wasn't ascared enough right now!
posted by madamjujujive at 11:14 AM on March 22, 2003

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