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Comment Re:Don't worry. Be Happy now. (Score 1) 193

Some bacteria replicate every 20 minutes. That's 72 opportunities a day for them to catch onto at least the beginnings of a method to bypass an antibiotic. And mutations are to increasing environmental survivability as brute force cracking is to opening a file with 2056-bit XYZ+ encryption. It'll work eventually, but 99.99999% of the time (literally) you and your entire family tree are long dead before anything significant happens.

You are underestimating the mutation rate of bacteria, as vertical inheritance is not the only mechanism for mutations. Look up Horizontal (or Lateral) Gene Transfer. Living cells can acquire genes from other cells. In bacteria, it was measured at one successful transfer per generation (in E. Coli). Genes can be acquired from environment, through plasmids, injected by viruses, recombined with other bacteria (a.k.a. bacterial sex), etc. Transfer doesn't have to be from the same species (whatever definition of species you use). Transfers can be cross-species, cross-phyla or even cross-domain. A useful trait like resistance will spread very very quickly.

The problem with antibiotics is that they a very strong selection pressure on bacteria: they kill them. And a stressed cell will have enhanced mutagenesis (look up stress-induced mutagenesis). No living being likes to be killesd, so we all have mechanisms to adapt to that situation. When you have anitbiotics, not only the bad bacteria can develop resistance. Also the harmless bacteria can develop resistance, and then transfer it to bad ones.

An alternative is not to kill bacteria, but to trick bad bacteria into expressing their pathogenicity (a very energetically demanding process) when their numbers are very small, so the other harmless bacteria can outnumber them to irrelevance. A way to do this is called Quorum Sensing Spoofing (hijacking of inter-bacterial communication), which is in very early research stages.

Comment Re:Dumb idea (Score 1) 951

Well, of course, as any of my students would immediately ask "what about lamarckian evolution?" (an alternative explanation for the process of evolution, largely rejected or falsified by observations)

...and then you start looking at microbes, which show evolution patterns that can be described as Lamarckian (e.g. antibiotic resistance gathered through horizontal gene transfer, phenotypic switching (a.k.a. phase variation) in biofilms).


Submission + - Mixed Reality, Physics and WoW (

hkfczrqj writes: Researchers at the University of Illinois are studying systems in which virtual and real physical systems interact (first story). Using a real and a simulated pendulum to create a "mixed reality" system, the authors hope to understand the conditions under which emergent, more complex phenomena such as the interaction between real and virtual economies in MMORPGs arise.

Submission + - Princeton physicists connect string theory

tinkertim writes: "Physorg is reporting that Princeton physicists have connected the string theory with established physics. From the article:

String theory, simultaneously one of the most promising and controversial ideas in modern physics, may be more capable of helping probe the inner workings of subatomic particles than was previously thought, according to a team of Princeton University scientists.

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