Perspective

Things seen from an unusual and enlightening point of view. Things that deepen understanding and perception.

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What you are made of?

This very accessible, kid-friendly video is about understanding the Human Microbiome.

Your body is made of trillions of cells, specifically, human cells. Around the beginning of the 21st century, scientists learned that the human body contains many trillions more microbial cells. This is the microbiome: the collection of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and other microbes) living in and on the human body. It has been part of us, evolving, interacting, and helping to determine our fate as organisms, since before the emergence of the human species itself. Scientists have known about the presence of microorganisms on and in the human body since the discovery of E. coli, but recognizing the importance of the microbiome is very recent.

There are 10 times more cells from microorganisms like bacteria and fungi in and on our bodies than there are human cells. Scientists increasingly recognize that these microorganisms have a huge influence on our health. An imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes in the intestines may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and other disorders. We now know that gut microbiota also affects our mood, anxiety levels, stress resilience, and depression.

Besides general interest, this is about understanding your dual existence as 1. A singular person in the world, and 2. As a gigantic mobile colony made of millions of cooperating cells many of which are “guest workers” here to make a living, but not really part of you.

You are an ecosystem.

Credit to artist Ben Arthur by way of NPR

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Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

Soren Kierkegaard

The way we understand the past is the way we understand the future. The future is lit indirectly, by imagination, as if by moonlight.

Perception cannot escape the relativity of POV. Every story can be traced back to its author and their personal story. Every background has a background. Every measurement suppresses or ignores other measures in order to capture its sample of reality. Every given limits what can be given as it dutifully fulfills its own prophecy. Continue reading

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Science is a Gas Giant.

I don’t mean anything disparaging by that. It’s a mental model to freshen up our thinking.

The unequivocal territory of science is the sum of theories plus experiments that have unambiguous, replicable results. This body of knowledge is the diamond-hard core at the heart of science. There are a lot of physics and chemistry experiments here. They seem to know their parts by heart.

Just beyond the border of that core, the gas atmosphere begins but it is nearly as hard as the core itself. It’s a long, dense gradient from here to the wispy edge of the atmosphere that is literally made of thin clouds under scattered atoms and space. Close to the core, the experiments are as replicable as the day is long when you average them out. There are enough squishy, stochastic details here that any random experiment might say something new, but not useful. The ambiguous results are overwhelmed by un-ambiguous ones like a single black grain in a bag of white rice.*

Heading outward, the variables faced by theorists get more complicated and slippery. If the questions science aims to answer were pickle jars, we’d crack them open without a beat at the core, struggle with rubber gloves and screwdrivers around the middle, and create thought experiments about jars and pickles at the foggy upper edge. Your thought experiment may perfectly predict opening the jar, and what’s inside but it’ll be a long time before anyone gets a pickle. Continue reading

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