What I learnt last week 26: Life from Citrus, Beeloved bee troubles, Titanic Earth, Monkey Medicine & Bacteria Genomic Control!

in science •  last year

A few throwbacks to previous weeks today. Science is an ever-evolving system, in which being wrong can often be as substantial as being right. But sometimes being corrected doesn't necessitate being wrong, either. Just outdated, or one option from many could be valid. Let's see what I'm talking about:

Monday: The recipe for life requires lemons

On at least two of my weekly learning posts I've put forth recent news on how life could have started, or at least what ingredients and conditions were required. Well now we have another!

So apparently, all aerobic life - life that requires oxygen - need something called the citric acid cycle which releases the stored energy in cells. Given that everything we know in this are requires it, it's not too hard to trace such a vital mechanism back to the beginning of life, but the ingredients required weren't around in the first billion years of Earth, according to some ridiculously impossible-to-pronounce professor, Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy. Try it.

Anyway, though the ingredients weren't there, they are now. So there must have been some period where things changed from not being, to being.

Researchers decided to work on a recipe of chemicals that would have existed back then, and found that both the HKG cycle and the malonate cycle - non biological cycles that use similar chemistry of ketoacids - could have come together to form a simplistic version of the citric acid cycle.

By trying this out, researchers found they created both amino acids and CO2 - stuff that gets created at the end of a citric acid cycle. This all shows that metabolism has an identifiable historical source, in which only a small transition would be required from non-organic to organic enzymes before stabilizing the whole system in an organic way.

Putting this alongside the previous posts about life origins, and it really starts to sound like a really complicated process, but then, nature doesn't care what I think. It turns out this process is really quite feasible, for reasons I won't go into here, but You can read more here

Tuesday: BEEware of fungicide

This is how I'd be too, if I kept ingesting deadly pesticidal chemicals

I had previously talked about how fungicide has been linked to the large decline in bee populations, including stunted growth of bees and fungal parasites in bumble bees, and more across several species around the world. Some have said that, like trying to feed a cat medicine, bees will avoid plants laced with chemical agents, but this was apparently guesswork because research has now discovered the exact opposite.

Bees are attracted to plants that have been treated with fungicide, or neonicotinoid pesticide. The researchers gave bees freedom to fly between feeding stations, and designed each one to have food laced with various chemicals, some organic, some fungicidal and others, in different concentrations. The results were, of course, that the bees preferred fungicide-laced food at all concentrations.

To make matters worse, they also preferred glyphosate-laced food, or the stuff used in Round-up's herbicide, at low concentrations. So, not only are we putting deadly bee poison out in the wild, but the bees love the stuff! Solutions are yet to be established.

You can read more here

Wednesday: Titanic Earth

Actual footage of Titan from Cassini

That subtitle actually makes sense, hear me out. From 2004 onwards, the Satellite Cassini has been exploring Saturn and its moons and giving us a huge dataset. Finally, we have a huge topographical map of Saturn's moon Titan - one of the primary locations to potentially find life, far likelier than Mars.

Coming from a year of work, new mountains have been discovered (up to 700 metres tall), depressios and even cryovolcanic flows (ice volcanoes!).

One interesting discovery is that Titan's seas (yes it has seas, though made from methane and ethane) have a sea level, meaning all three seas share the same equipotential altitude. This means that in some way, they are all connected. There is evidence that they are connected via subsurface communication in some way, further backed up by how any old lakes above their elevation are dry, and any below are still filled.

Another weird aspect is how the lakes are all surrounded by steep, cliff-like ridges, in a process called uniform scarp retreat, but there are still a lot of questions being raised the more details are found. And I mean, come on, we're looking at something billions of km's away at a resolution of 40cm. Are we really going to ask for more?

Yes, yes we are.

You can read more here

Thursday: Chinese Medicine no better than Monkey medicine

I do see a very Asian scholarly vibe here, or am I being racist?

I love this. Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is something I've been writing about for some weeks now in my Chinese Pseudoscience Series. Though I acknowledge some TCM does indeed work, I make clear that this is not as a result of legitimate scientific process or abiding by any safety standards we might deem acceptable in the modern world, but instead through thousands of years of trial-and-error, with lots of people simply dying, and just choosing the people out of those who get better, and remembering which plant they ate.

It turns out that not only do indigenous humans around the world do this, but Orangutans do the exact same thing, too. Orangs have been found to use the same medicine as indigenous people in Borneo to treat joint pains and muscle inflammation.

Through 20,000 hours of watching, the observers only caught Orangs using Dracaena cantleyi 7 times, but at least got it on camera as proof. Phew. The Orang on tape, Indy, is seen chewing the plant to create a white froth, which Indy then rubs over her left arm for 7 minutes - and doesn't eat any of the leaf itself.

So hey well done China, you actually have about 7 million years of history! But for both Chinese Doctors and Orangutans alike, the potential side effects and inefficacy of the medicine is usually undiscussed, and thus little is known about chomping down the entirety of a plant rather than isolating the actual ingredients that we know work from years of study. Be careful out there, Ape friends! (and sorry I called you monkeys, it just sounded better).

You can read more here

Friday: Bacterial Authorarianism

Actual footage of good bacteria

It turns out Bacteria that insists its the 'good bacteria' is controlling every aspect of our lives, from what food we eat to how angry we get. But it goes so, so much deeper than that.

Researchers have found that bacteria actual control our genes. Various messages from bacteria get sent around our body and change chemical markers within our genome. But don't worry, they are benevolent dictators. Though it might sound scary, it actually might help us fight infection and stave off cancer.

Specifically, the chemical reactions from breakdowns of fruit and veg with the bacteria can affect the genes in the cells of gut lining. the fatty acids created move from the bacteria into our own cells, affecting how they behave.

Turning these genes contributed to by bacteria off in mice showed an increase in colorectal cancer, linking good bacteria to its prevention and other healthy sides effects.

This is just one new bullet point on the good bacteria's resume, alongside their ability to help digestion, protect us from harmful bacteria and even educate our immune system. So I apologise to @bacterium, a mystical account presumably run by good bacteria! Though they've yet to learn how to post on Steemit. yet.

You can read more here

That's it for this week. I've had a lazy few days without posting, so expect some double posts per day as I experiment with a new music-based series. There's a few ideas I have, but I haven't decided what will work best or be most interesting yet. Thanks for reading!


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What a nice post, in particular the last section with its footage of good bacteria! You are right, bacteria are controlling every aspect of your live! Your understanding of bacteria has much improved, so we can upvote you with our full power!

Awesome post.. I am taken by this statement

Science is an ever-evolving system, in which being wrong can often be as substantial as being right. But sometimes being corrected doesn't necessitate being wrong, either. Just outdated, or one option from many could be valid

Striving to learn new things in the ever increasing world of science!

Hello @mobbs
This is a very interesting and informative article.
The fact about the orangs and the TCM really got me, i knew orangs were smart but i didn't know they were that smart.

Thank you so much for sharing and for just being awesome!


'There isn't a sharp line between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom, it's a very wuzzy line and it's getting wuzzier all the time' = Jane Goodall ^__^

Now, fungicides are declining the populating of bees :(
What will happen to the earth if all these bees are exterminated? (I know it's not possible though :D).
You learnt amazing stuffs last week buddy. Thanks for sharing


I wouldn't say it's not possible... A fungus has rendered a global species of banana functionally extinct before, and a significant percentage of amphibians are due to be annihilated from a similar fungal disease!


Damn, I'm really getting scared now buddy :(
I hope bees don't disappear, because of my love for honey


Thank's for posting the link to the bacterial paper, that will be a very interesting read, also educational as I'm going to have to learn a bunch of new big word's to read that correctly.
Tweaking my micro-herd is one of my main goal's this year.

Also a quick translation from the other day's reply's is. In my incoherent state you had so much clarity I was struck in awe. It's rare that I meet someone with such a gift mate. Cheers.


Maybe I was also drunk at the time and the languages kind of crossed into perception? Haha, cheers

We should eat any kind of food. Otherwise we are affected in many diseases

Nice pict
very useful and what you publish is very good for my personal knowledge, hopefully always keep motivation bro

Yay for the Indian Professor. "Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy" I pronounced his name correctly in one go.!
and are you discovering that titan thing just now?? its awesome is'nt it? a methane based lifeform would be awesomeER. :D I wish its true. I wish there Could be some hidden worm type thingys hidden in the muds of titan.


Nah I've known about Titan since I was a kid and its updates, it's just the latest is the complete map unveiling some extra secrets that's new =P But yeah a lot of great potential around Saturn!

Really nice. I just have to say this, your orangutan looks horrible, Lol.. I think this week's post came a day earlier. All the same, nice post....


I'm sure the Orangutan thinks you're ugly, too!