We interrupt our usual program …… Down With Everything

Thomas Friedman recently wrote about a discussion he had with Frank Fukyama on the two-volume opus Fukyama is working on “The Origins of Political Order.” Of course, I hardly ever get political here, but this article resonated with me. “Indeed, America today increasingly looks like the society that the political scientist Mancur Olson wrote about […]

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Repeated evolution in sticklebacks, and adjacent possibles

“Researchers have documented repeated evolution in other organisms, but the sticklebacks are unique because the freshwater transition has occurred so many times. “Sticklebacks have been a phenomenal system for understanding rapid evolution,” says evolutionary biologist Erica Bree Rosenblum of the University of California, Berkeley, who wasn’t involved in the study. “This paper shows that repeated […]

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The wacky world of horizontal gene transfer, genomic variants, and what we think are microbial species

“The main difference from eukaryotes is that prokaryotic reproduction is independent of DNA acquisition and recombination. Instead, DNA is obtained from fragmented chromosomes obtained via parasexual means (that is, without reproduction). These mechanisms of DNA exchange are not restricted to gene exchange within species, and therefore traits can and do come from highly divergent organisms. […]

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Another article on “Patterns of Early Gut Colonization Shape Future Immune Responses of the Host” in PLoS ONE

“In conclusion, a time window exists that enables the artificial colonization of GF mice by a single oral dose of caecal content, which may modify the future immune phenotype of the host. Moreover, delayed microbial colonization of the gut causes permanent changes in the immune system.” Ok. So there’s mounting evidence that rapid colonization of […]

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New Old Publishing and “The New Value of Text”

“Finally, the text still requires context. As publishers spin up their digital and print-on-demand backlists, more and more is published with less and less context. These efforts amount to land-grabs and rights-squatting, without adding value. Works without TOCs, indexes, author bios, footnotes. Placing work in context is one of publishers’ primary tasks, stretching out to […]

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Gut microbes and immunity: The hygiene hypothesis, peak antibiotics, and the post-Pasteurian Age

“Exposure to microbes during early childhood is associated with protection from immune-mediated diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and asthma. Here, we show that, in germ-free (GF) mice, invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells accumulate in the colonic lamina propria and lung, resulting in increased morbidity in models of IBD and allergic asthma compared […]

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The Impact of a Consortium of Fermented Milk Strains on the Gut Microbiome of Gnotobiotic Mice and Monozygotic Twins

“The results also showed that (i) consumption of an FMP containing five bacterial strains was not associated with a statistically significant change in the proportional representation of resident community members within and between individuals; (ii) the appearance and disappearance of strains comprising the FMP consortium did not exhibit familial patterns in the fecal microbiota; and […]

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