The clouds are alive! My new podcast on aerobiology

By Carl Zimmer | November 29, 2010 1:34 pm

mtsitunes220On my latest podcast, I explore the invisible ocean of life through which we swim every day: the air. I talk to Jessica Green of the University of Oregon about life in the clouds, in our houses, and everywhere in between. Gee-whiz science at its finest. Check it out.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Meet the Scientist

Comments (6)

  1. Fascinating discussion. It’s a pity this remains such a relatively neglected area of research – there must be all sorts of microscopic wonders miles overhead waiting to be discovered. It was Lyall Watson’s Heaven’s Breath: A Natural History of the Wind (1984) that introduced me to the idea of a vast and little known microscopic aerobiology; the book includes a chapter called ‘The Biology of Wind’:

    ‘Aerobiology is still in its infancy, but already we have enough hints to suggest that we are dealing at high altitude not only with accidental intrusions carried there passively by freak conditions, but with an ecology adapted to the edges of space as a normal habitat. One third of all bacteria collected in the upper air are able to withstand exposure for 48 hours to temperatures as low as -26º Centigrade.’

    The datum points to a paper by Proctor & Parker, ‘Micro-Organisms in the Upper Air’, in Moulton (ed.) Aerobiology, American Association for the Advancement of Science Publication no.17, 1942. Watson being Watson, he digs up a pertinent line of thinking by Lucretius, regarding the origin and dispersal of pestilence (‘baleful particles’).

    Something else that might interest you, though it relates to bigger airborne critters than microbes: a photo of entomologist Perry Glick on the wing of a biplane with what appears to be one of the screen traps he used to collect insects. 33,934 of them, supposedly, in 1119 hours of open traps.

  2. Gail

    Glick may have started it for insects, but there is active research featured in Isard & Gage’s “Flow of Life in the Atmosphere”

  3. I like the part about “hospitals in the U.S. do not have windows you can open.”

  4. i’m still holding out hope for H.P. Lovecraft’s intelligent interstellar gas clouds.

  5. Dr. N.K. Udaya Prakash

    I am an aerobiologist who never thought that the organism may reproduce in the atmosphere. I thought that the air may be functioning just as a career of organisms and the organisms are metabolic in air. My ideas never ventured into that, the organism may reproduce in the atmosphere. After going through the review, I need to accept that they have high potency to reproduce when they are abound in the atmosphere. Thanks for the discussion and review you done.

    Dr. N.K. Udaya Prakash
    Associate Professor
    Veltech Technical University
    Avadi, Chennai 600 062


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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