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Wednesday, 20 April 2016 09:50

An Earth Day Shout-out to Microbes

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So another Earth Day has come and gone. How did you spend yours? If you spent the entire day asleep, you used about half a kilogram of oxygen. Since I assume that you are alive and kicking, you probably consumed more oxygen than that. If you went about your normal business during the day, you probably consumed almost 1 Kg of oxygen (~0.8 Kg). On the other hand, if you decided to run a marathon before sitting down this evening to read bLogPhase, you may have needed a hefty supply of over 7Kg of oxygen. Regardless of how you spent…
Microbial sciences are undergoing a phenomenal renaissance, triggered in large part by powerful new technologies. Nothing better exemplifies this fact than next-generation sequencing. Until recently, we have been very limited in what we can learn about microbes, with roughly 10 percent of the microbes in our human bodies culturable.  The landscape dramatically changed with the advent of “next-gen” sequencing, which allows us a spectacularly fine grained and nuanced look at the human biome, especially at the trillions of microbes which live with us, both as helpers and threats. Microbes greatly outnumber our own human cells with a nucleus. Indeed, if…
Physicists do it, economists do it, but biologists? Not so much. I am talking about publishing on preprint servers which is standard practice for researchers in many disciplines except among biologists who have largely resisted posting their results prior to publication in a scientific journal. That is, until now. About 10 years ago, I came across arXiv (pronounced Archive), the physics preprint server now hosted by the Cornell University Library. Here physicists who study a different set of very small things from the ones studied by microbiologists post their papers in advance of peer review. At the time, I was…
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