Sunday, January 06, 2013
  Unshaven science

Headline caught my attention because I'd been thinking about black boxes....

Biologists Unlock 'Black Box' to Underground World: How Tiny Microbes Make Life Easier for Humans

Unfortunately, they're not thinking the blackbox way. They're starting with a pile of nonsensical assumptions, and all their research is aimed at helping those assumptions.
With information about the genome (the complete set of its DNA and all of its genes) of each microbe in the soil, the researchers were able to see which organisms do what, and whether or not their functional roles are redundant or unique.

"People think you're going to pick up a handful of dirt anywhere in the world and you'll pretty much have the same bunch of microbes doing pretty much the same things," Adams said. "That's simply not true. They function very differently based on their environment. And when you have more species, you get more, and different functions."

Having several different species that do the same job might mean that if one species goes extinct then the others can pick up the slack. On the other hand, in ecosystems like deserts, where there are few species and even fewer jobs, removing some species could result in collapse, or failure of the ecosystem to provide the services we need.
Could result in collapse, but hasn't yet. We have 3 BILLION YEARS OF DATA, and during those 3 BILLION YEARS this event that COULD HAPPEN has NOT HAPPENED. How many more BILLIONS do you need, fuckhead? If removing some species resulted in collapse, there would be no life on earth. Every ecosystem has gone through innumerable tough times, periods when the climate was too cool or too warm or too wet or too dry or too acid or too alkaline or too radioactive for its comfort range. Through all those periods, life continued in every niche.
The researchers' data also may have something to say about how new species form. For centuries it was thought that geographic barriers (like mountains, peninsulas, rivers and deserts) were the primary engines of speciation. However, it could be that interactions with other species are just as important.
When you actually see speciation, wake me up. All existing evidence points to an initial wild abundance of species, followed by a gradual winnowing over the millenia. We've been observing large animals and plants closely for 3000 years, and we've been observing microbes closely for about 300 years. Among the millions of types both big and small, we've observed and caused a fair number of extinctions (roughly two per year among the birds and mammals); we've observed and caused lots of mutations and variations in gene expression; but we've never seen one new species. Not one.

These biologists need a shave. I recommend Ockham™ blades.

= = = = =

Sidenote: It's odd that anti-theistic "scientists" insist on one huge speciation for all matter and energy, which they call the Big Bang; but can't wrap their alleged "minds" around one huge speciation for living things. Why do they make up their own version of the usual creation story for inorganic stuff but reject the usual creation story for organic stuff?
 


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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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