Curiosities for the Curious






⦿ The feet of horse embryos indicate the final product will have five toes each, but as the fetus develops the ten toes morph into two hooves. I wonder if reindeer embryos do the same thing. Imagine the clatter Rudolph et all would raise on our roofs if their feet didn’t evolve.

⦿ Some jellyfish don’t have to touch with their trailers to sting you. They can shoot out tiny sting-grenades. Kapow. Kapow.

⦿ Some microbes spread their antibiotic resistance to other microbes. The cooties are in kahoots.

⦿ But wait! A new antibiotic has been found in “of all places” inside a tiny worm—a nemotode to be precise. Take that you disease carriers.

⦿ Stories of Female Amazon warriors are not myths. New evidence has been found to indicate they were real. Some removed their breasts in order not to interfere with shooting arrows. At least they don’t have to deal with mammograms.

⦿ There’s a woman who grows eyelash-like hair in her gums. I imagine her dentist accuses her of a poor flossing job and wonders about her diet.




Crazy Way to Create Amazing Concrete


Regular concrete requires virgin sand, the supply of which is diminishing. The traditional process also emits carbon dioxide, a well-known greenhouse gas.

An interdisciplinary team of research scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder has discovered a new way of making concrete from living cyanobacteria, which is in a class of photosynthetic microbes. The photosynthesis process absorbs carbon dioxide. Add dirty sand, or ground up glass, other plentiful materials along with ordinary gelatin, pour into a mold, and presto one obtains a concrete-like substance. It is green when wet despite the non-lime gelatin flavor. When dry and strong it can be cut with a diamond-tipped saw. Originally, the process did not involve gelatin and was too slow for the researchers. Hence, the introduction of a food they all grew up with.

The amazing thing is that the material can reproduce. The bacteria remain alive for several weeks, and become active when exposed to high temperature and humidity. Cut a block in half, place it in a warm container with more raw materials but no additional microbes, pour into a mold, and create more concrete. Each block can spawn three new generations of blocks, obtaining eight descendants.

A concrete expert at a university in Scotland is excited about the prospect of this new way of making concrete.

This ability to reproduce and flexibility in raw materials is seen as a huge advantage for construction in remote areas. Concrete homes on Mars some day?

I just discovered that something went awry and this is not being published on its usual Saturday.

Toss your anti-bacterial soap!





According to the FDA antibacterial soap isn’t much more effective than ordinary soap and water and contains triclosan, an ingredient that could be dangerous for a number of reasons.

Perhaps the word “antibacterial” needs to be eliminated from our vocabulary. Bacteria are like humans. There are good guys and bad guys. We wouldn’t want an anti-humanial product. This article is about a break-through in synthesizing one of the good-guy bacteria.

PKU Test


There is a rare condition called PKU. Parents know these letters as every baby born in a U.S. hospital is tested for it. They are pricked in the heel to draw blood. There is no cure, but there is a treatment and needs to begin before the babies suffer brain damage.

Phenylalanine, an enzyme contained in proteins will form a toxin in our blood. Most of us contain microbes that break down this toxin, but some babies are born without these microbes. This needs to be detected soon so the baby’s diet avoids protein from meat, cheese, and most milk. The special diet must continue life-long and be supplemented.

By manipulating DNA, researchers are working on synthetically creating these microbes that, once ingested, will treat PKU.

The first test was carried out in the summer of 2018 by Synlogic. Oddly the article doesn’t yet claim success, but suggests the bacterial concoction may become the first synthetic biology-based medical treatment to gain approval by the Food and Drug Administration. This new area of research called synthetic biology up until now has focused on industrial uses. Industry has harnessed bacteria for manufacturing as humans once harnessed horses  to perform useful functions.

While PKU is rare, if synthesized bacteria can allow PKU victims to lead less restricted lives, it will be a huge milestone. Who knows what possibilities might exist to improve human health with  the help of our tiny little good guys.





Are humans extremophiles?

Tardigrade—The most extreme extremophile

One of the questions that fascinated me growing up was “Why is there anything?” In particular “Where did life come from?” It we were created by God, “where did God come from?” Now, as an adult I wonder not only where life came from, but why  there is so much life?” Go to any aquarium, any aviary, any large zoo, or to an entomology display at a large university—all those strange icky bugs—and you’ll wonder the same thing. I’ve read various numerical estimates on the number of different species of micro-organims within the human body with 10,000 as the lowest. I found. (We have more non-human cells than human cells. Most help us in various ways.)  One of my first blogs was about those on our faces. (Face mites  even look like the tardigrade above.) Even more fascinating to me is that there is life in the most extreme conditions. Critters exist in bubbling pots of sulphur and in the icy Arctic tundra. They’re labeled as extremophiles.

These environments are extreme to humans who like 70 degree Fahrenheit temperatures and moderate humidity. There are microbes in the deep deep depths of the ocean where the sun does not penetrate and the pressure is unthinkable—the setting for my novel, Lower World.  Consider the following quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson. “If there were biologists among the extremophiles, they would certainly classify themselves as normal and any life that thrived at room temperature as an extremophile.” Of course there are individual politicians and people in the media I’d classify as extremophiles, but that’s for different reasons.

A friend alerted me to an ugly microbe called a tardigrade, which is probably the most extreme among extremophiles. It can be found at the tops of mountains and in the depths of the oceans. They not only tolerate any temperature, they are radioactive proof, dehydration proof, starvation proof, and are assessed to be able to withstand cosmic disasters which could affect earth. They are destined to be the last life standing when all other life on earth has perished from a disaster.  Scientists hope that in this case, higher life forms can evolve. Microbes are the bottom of the food chain in oceans, which comprise most of Earth. (The instructor of a course on oceans believes  our planet should logically be called Ocean rather than Earth.)