An introduction to the microbiome

By Ed Yong | August 8, 2010 11:00 am


This is the first of what I hope will be a new series on this blog, providing an overview of key topics that I find myself drawn to again and again.

The idea for this has been germinating for a while now, not least because it seemed a shame that old posts get forgotten in the mists of time. Much has been written about the importance of context in modern science journalism – providing the necessary background so that readers can put new discoveries in their broader context. To achieve this, I considered doing topic pages like those that many newspaper sites do, but I (and others) find the automated nature of these pages to be ultimately unfulfilling. You need some sort of human editorial control to make them useful.

At a recent blogging talkfest, someone in the audience asked about whether blog posts could be aggregated into an educational resource, like a textbook. The idea seemed promising but the disparity of style across different blogs, and the rubbish quality of most blog search engines, makes this a difficult venture. But these primers, hopefully, address these shortcomings – the idea is that I will take old material and re-edit them into a coherent tour through an exciting topic. The tour will take the form of an online slide show, as powered by Discover’s cool slide technology.

Let me know your thoughts.

(PS – Credit to Ferris Jabr for suggesting the name “The Yong and Short of It. In the end I went for something simple, but I might use that in the future ;-)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Bacteria, Microbiome

Comments (11)

  1. Ed

    It is not just bacteria. There are archaea and eukaryotes and viruses int here that are also important.

  2. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    My immediate reaction is that if you read a lot of science blogs you already have the context pretty clear. And I would only make time to read the old posts if they seem interesting. So for some this is “too little and too much”. The Yin and Yong of some web technology.

    But if they touch a subject I haven’t or have jumped over, they will be A Fearsome Power indeed. Beware of NERS, it may make you feel Yong all over again! At least in certain areas.

  3. I do not see the slideshow.

    All I see is the italic text from “This is the first” to “At least in certain areas.” That is the entirity of the post as displayed by my computer.

    I’m using Firefox. Discover slideshows have worked for me in the past, though there’ve been some others that haven’t.

  4. Dionigi

    I am using firefox and it works for me. I had read some of the posts before but I like the idea and think you should run with it.

  5. Great idea, Ed. Run with it! This could be a great resource for educators & science-minded home-schoolers, especially in light of these articles that identify a trend of moving away from text books:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/technology/01ping.html
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/education/09textbook.html

  6. Diane G.

    I love it! I can’t keep up with every post everywhere. And many need to be revisited to sink in. Add the meta-level of organization & this is all WIN.

  7. Nathan Myers

    Discover Magazine sites are, for a reason, among those I use the NoScript Firefox plug-in to disable scripting in: scripts on Discover Magazine sites are not well-behaved, consuming unlimited amounts of CPU resources, indefinitely. As a result, I did not see the slide show, but just a pile of captionless pictures followed by the “This is the first…” text. If we who do not run the scripts could have the text displayed as picture captions, we wouldn’t be missing anything. Anyway, the slide-show presentation format doesn’t help much when, as here, the content is worth reading for its own sake.

    I’m astonished that this “first” was not about bdelloid rotifers.

  8. Deborah W.

    Thank you for this, fascinating & I had no idea! – I am a learning & performance professional (aka trainer) … just wanted to say I think you’ve stumbled upon a very powerful format here. Not only are you “curating” content in a meaningful way, but you’re supporting it with resources (links to the original posts) and powerful visual content, which is likely to increase retention of the information.

  9. Sam Shumacher

    For those unable to see the slideshow, disable AdBlock Plus or other related software in Firefox. You may also have to turn off NoScript.

  10. The gut is not the only place where bacteria are important.

    In the “wild”, humans have a natural and commensal biofilm of ammonia oxidizing bacteria. These bacteria set the normal basal nitric oxide level by oxidizing the ammonia in sweat into nitric oxide and nitrite. This is rapidly absorbed and is very important for proper health.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=a3mwmXzpsjkC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA103#v=onepage&q&f=false

    One of the important things that NO and nitrite does is regulate the activity of the immune system. NO is a normal regulator of inflammation (NO inhibits NFkB which triggers inflammation), so low NO leads to a hyper-inflammatory state.

    These bacteria are obligate autotrophs, so they don’t grow on any of the media used to isolate pathogens. They are also very slow growing, a doubling time of 10 hours instead of 20 minutes. If you bathe every few days, you wash them off faster than they can proliferate and all you are left with on your skin are the “weeds” that grow back rapidly, not the “climax ecosystem” that is optimal for health.

  11. whoareyouandme

    I wonder if the same bacteria works the same way in the brain. Like some people smoking tobacco or via. the nicotine effecting the mind. Does it affect smokers making them smoke more and wanting more of its sensation it delivers? We seem to know that a certain ingredient from the plant (nicotine) is mainly the cause for addiction. Is there any bacteria that also could contribute to the same effect or maybe somehow enhances it? Just like some bacteria affects our overall health to making you gain weight, the use of drugs/nicotine affects our overall health just as well. There must be some connection to that, if any. Just imagine, the smokers maybe experiencing and suffering “vicious mental nicotine addiction infection” or something similar to that effect. I believe they are and they need help. Don’t you possibly think so? That is why they have a very hard time in controlling their mind altering nicotine obsession. All tobacco products should be banned everywhere in the U.S. (and, not just a few places here & there) and should be treated just like any other drug products. After-all, nicotine is a drug. So let’s treated as such and not be namby-pamby and coddling over it. It is destructive to all our health and ruin lives inclusively.

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