How long can a bacterium live?

Note: This is not a 5-second rule thing.

It’s ages. Really – an awfully long time.

But – can it manage to get to the ripe old age of 500 years?

Well, pop back in 2514 and researchers at Edinburgh University will be able to tell you. If there is still such a thing as a researcher by then. Or indeed a University in Edinburgh. Or indeed, an Edinburgh.

Who knows what the future holds? Other than our friend the Asparamancer, of course?

The experiment itself is really rather simple: at a given timepoint, take one of the hermetically sealed vials and crack it open, rehydrate the contents and plonk them onto an agar plate, incubate and see what grows.

A 10 year old could do that.

But not for 500 years. Because humans don’t live that long.

So the problem becomes not doing the experiment, but how to tell other people how to do the experiment. Paper won’t last. A fancy carved metal sheet might get nicked by some marauding invaders at some stage over the next 5 centuries: and technology?

The team left a USB stick with instructions, which Möller realizes is far from adequate, given how quickly digital technology becomes obsolete.

And if you think that is a bit over the top, please note that no-one had even heard about USB 25 years ago, because it hadn’t been invented then.

So, the idea is to keep up to date by charging a human (a good choice because if there are no humans around, then there’s really no-one interested in the results anyway) to update the instructions every 25 years to some suitable format that will last until the next update.

I’ve done experiments that have lasted a couple of years, but they don’t have the same difficulties as this one, because I fully expected (correctly, as it happens) to still be alive when I finished it. There were occasional issues with remembering time points, but Google Calendar helped out with them. Will Google Calendar be around in 25, 50 or 500 years? I doubt it.
And it’s not like the lab staff will be working on this 24/7. This is an entirely  occasional thing.

I’m not sure how often data from this experiment are going to be shared, but I’ll keep an eye out, if only to give them a nudge if I think that they’ve forgotten to do their plating that year.

Canon ad

This is properly interesting.

The idea that a photograph is shaped by who is behind the lens, rather than just who is in front of it.
No spoilers here, but the comment from the guy at 2:30 is amazing.

Great ad. Very clever. Made me want to go and take a photo.
Except the Missus has got my camera.

Cute gets hits

Think of this as some sort of web-based experiment. And yes – if you’re reading this, you are one of my experimental subjects. If you don’t want to take part, you can always close this window, but actually, in just being here, you’ve already taken part. Thanks.

Bizarrely, one of the posts which recurrently scores the highest number of hits is this one from June 2009, which features a baby pygmy marmoset. There’s nothing else of interest in that post, so I’ve formulated the hypothesis that “cute gets hits”.

That being the case, have some baby platypi platypuses:

    

Cute, hey? Yeah, cute until they get you with the pair of short spurs tucked away on their back legs, each of which is hooked-up to a venom gland that makes a viciously painful toxin:

Platypus spurrings of people are rare, but the select group who have survived the trauma (often fishermen trying to free irate monotremes from their nets) report pain strong enough to induce vomiting which can persist for days, weeks or even months. The pain is resistant to morphine and other pain-killing drugs and anaesthesia of the main nerve from the spur site is often the only way to relieve the patient’s suffering.

Or, of course, brandy:

“… the pain was intense and almost paralysing. But for the administration of small doses of brandy, he would have fainted on the spot: as it was, it was half and hour before he could stand without support: by that time the arm was swollen to the shoulder, and quite useless, and the pain in the hand very severe.” – W.W. Spicer (1876)

Mmmm….. Brandy….

But I feel we’re drifting away from the original idea of this post, so for more cute pictures and all you need to know about baby platypi platypuses head here.