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 Just outdated, or one option from many could be valid.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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
All images CC0 Licensed