Here I’ve compiled some articles from my notebook that look
at how our senses work when it comes to simpler forms of life, like bacteria.
There’s even something about how molecules – very far from what we consider ‘living
things’ – uses a form of memory. All this has been put together to reinforce an
idea presented in Hidden
which suggests that our awe-inspiring brain is similar to things
less inspiring, like the lowly eukaryote.
Some of these things are really old, and most of the text
here is copied from the links provided. Overall I hope it’s interesting enough
to keep your attention:
“…there is a distinction between an organism reacting to a
chemical that it encounters directly (in analogy to the sense of taste) and a
reaction to a chemical that is floating around in the air, says Reindert
Nijland, lead author of the study.
"The compounds detected by olfactory organs are
generally much more volatile than things you can taste like 'sweet' or 'salt',
and therefore can provide information about things that can be much further
away; you can smell a barbecue from a few blocks away whereas you have to
physically touch and eat the steak to be able to actually taste it."
phys.org, Feb 2016
“ "Very little is known about the microbes of the built
environment," microbiologist Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello of New York
University, who led the pilot study, said at a meeting of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science.
“Her team found that as people living in the Amazon
rainforest become more urbanized, the kinds of bacteria in their homes change
from the bugs mostly found in nature to those that typically live on people, she reported Friday.
In fact, in city dwellings, the researchers could tell just
by the microbial fingerprints of the walls that "this is a kitchen or this
is a bathroom or this is a living room. That's amazing," Dominguez-Bello
“Despite fewer occupants, the more urbanized a dwelling, the
more human bacteria lived on its walls and floors, the researchers reported in
the journal Science Advances. In Manaus, a collection of microbes normally
found in the mouth, including various species of strep bacteria, and in the gut
were the most important in telling rooms apart. The more crowded jungle and
rural homes nonetheless were filled with more bacteria commonly found in soil
and water than with human microbes.”
The microbiome has
become a big deal lately. As much as it is invisible, it’s not unrecognizable.
Its kind of funny how,
first, we didn’t know what microorganisms were one hundred years ago, and are
only now beginning to understand the role of microbes (in their totality, as
the microbiome) in human health, and yet, I would conjecture that the smell of
the microbiome, its dynamic states of existence and effects, have been well
known to us for quite some time. I cannot see your body odor, even if I look
really close. But I know it’s there.
This isn’t about
smelling, but sensing nonetheless…
“Dmitri A. Nusinow, Ph.D., assistant member at the Danforth
Plant Science Center and researchers in his lab studying plants' circadian
clock have discovered a gene that allows plants to remember daylight during the
long nights of winter, helping them tailor their growth appropriately to the
“After more than three centuries of scientists eyeballing
bugs under microscopes, Prof Mullineaux said it was remarkable that nobody had
picked up on this before.”
“the entire organism
acts like an eyeball”
“Cyanobacteria, including the Synechocystis species used in
the study, are an ancient and abundant lifeform. They live in water and get
their energy from photosynthesis - which explains their enthusiasm for bright
mentioning that cyanobacteria are what make the ‘smell of the seashore;’ it
emanates from their little bacteria bodies as they metabolize, and we can also
call it seaweed sweat or seaweed pheromones or seaweed seeking sex.
phys.org, Jan 2016
“This device, reported in the Jan. 28 issue of the
journal Nature, is the first fully integrated electronic system
that can provide continuous, non-invasive monitoring of multiple biochemicals
“The advance opens doors to wearable devices that alert
users to health problems such as fatigue, dehydration and dangerously high body
"Human sweat contains physiologically rich information,
thus making it an attractive body fluid for non-invasive wearable sensors."
[and on that note...]
phys.org, Feb 2016
"Thousands of bacteria species have the potential to
live on human skin, and in particular in the armpit," says Rob Dunn, a
professor of applied ecology at NC State and co-author of the paper. "Just
which of these species live in any particular armpit has been hard to predict
until now, but we've discovered that one of the biggest determinants of the
bacteria in your armpits is your use of deodorant and/or antiperspirant."
"We found that, on the first day, people using
antiperspirant had fewer microbes in their samples than people who didn't use
product at all - but there was a lot of variability, making it hard to draw
firm conclusions," Horvath says. "In addition, people who used
deodorant actually often had more microbes - on average - than those who didn't
“By the third day, participants who had used antiperspirant
were beginning to see more microbial growth. And by day six, the amount of
bacteria for all study participants was fairly comparable.
"However, once all participants began using
antiperspirant on days seven and eight, we found very few microbes on any of
the participants, verifying that these products dramatically reduce microbial
growth," Horvath notes.
“The participants who had been regular antiperspirant users
coming into the study had wildly different results. Sixty percent of their
microbes were Staphylococcaceae, only 14 percent were Corynebacteria, and more
than 20 percent were filed under "other" - meaning they were a
grab-bag of opportunistic bacteria.
“Swarm robotics is an emerging approach to the coordination
of multi-robot systems, which takes inspiration from the natural world to
examine the possibilities for improved interaction between robots and their
“Until now, researchers specialising in swarm robotic
applications have been unable to replicate all the aspects of pheromone
communication that occur in the natural world.
“Specialists from the University of Lincoln's School of
Computer Science have now produced a novel artificial pheromone system that is
reliable, accurate and only uses 'off-the-shelf' components …[which] allows
users to simulate several pheromones and to change their strength.
“Led by Farshad Arvin, PhD researcher in the School of
Computer Science, the Lincoln team developed the system using their own Colias
platform. They created Colias - an open-platform system that can be used to
investigate collective behaviours and be applied to swarm applications - in
2014 in collaboration with experts from Tsinghua University in China.”