Search for Intraterrestrial Life Scores Big

first_imgSingle-celled organisms may be tiny, but what they lack in bulk they make up for in volume and importance.  Scientists have been appreciating more than ever the ubiquitous presence of microbes on our planet and the roles they play to sustain the biosphere.    PhysOrg reported that half of the world’s life may lie below the land and sea.  Scientists at UC Santa Cruz are thinking earth’s “habitable zone” may extend much deeper than previously thought: to depths of hundreds or thousands of meters.  Microbes inhabit subsurface aquifers that could contain more water than all the rivers on earth.  The search for ET begins at home, they think: “Scientists say research on ‘intraterrestrial life’ complements astronomers’ hunt for ‘extraterrestrial life’ around other stars and planets,” the article said.    Of course, all life we know on earth uses the same genetic coding and translation system.  But the vast bulk of life on our planet may never see the sun, and some of it does not even need oxygen.  “Diving for Microbes,” an article in Caltech’s Engineering and Science magazine (LXXIII:1, 2010) discussed work to understand the microbes on the seafloor that digest methane and support entire ecosystems in the dark.  In passing, author Marcus Y. Woo gave some “wow factor” information about microbes in general:Scientists estimate that the planet has 5 x 1030 microorganisms—that’s more than a hundred million times the number of stars in the observable universe.  Scoop up all these little critters together, and they’ll weigh several hundred billion metric tons, a mass about a thousand times greater than that of all the people on Earth.  The majority of the planet’s microbes are believed to live inside Earth’s crust or just below the seafloor, regions that are scarcely understood and explored, so many more bug-based ecosystems are likely still undiscovered.    Often unjustly maligned, microbes are essential for life.  “They are an integral part of almost every facet of our planet,” [Victoria] Orphan [Assistant Professor of Geobiology, Caltech] says.  No species of archaea are known to cause diseases, and only a small fraction of bacteria do; most are harmless or even helpful.  Bacteria help digestion, and, as biologists are finding, they play essential roles in our immune systems and overall health….(For more on microbes aiding digestion, see this recent article on PhysOrg.  An article on Science Daily noted that there are more microbe genes in your gut than human genes for your body; so did the BBC News, that said your microbe passengers constitute a “second genome” of yours.)    What scientists are finding, therefore, is not only that we depend on microbes, which outnumber our own cells 10 to 1 as we live and move, but that they are essential for the habitability of the entire planet.  The methane-eating bacteria on the seafloor, Orphan’s team found, play a huge role in earth’s nitrogen cycle.  They are among the only life forms capable of “fixing” nitrogen from atmospheric nitrogen gas and making it available for use by other organisms.  “Without these microbes, the planet would run out of biologically available nitrogen in less than a month,” the article said.    Realizations like this are stimulating a flourishing field of “geobiology” – the study of relationships between life and the earth.  One member of the Caltech team commented, “If all bacteria and archaea just stopped functioning, life on Earth would come to an abrupt halt.”  Microbes are key players in earth’s nutrient cycles.  Dr. Orphan added, “…every fifth breath you take, thank a microbe.”    Since we depend on microbes so much, why not let them become our teachers?  Another article on PhysOrg reported about scientists seeking better ways to convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, using sunlight.  They asked, “WWND?  What would nature do?”  They don’t have a particular microbe in mind that does this task, but realized that thinking like a microbe might provide a fruitful way to approach the problem.  An Oxford scientist commented, “We looked for a way that seems like nature’s way of doing it, which is more efficient.”Update 03/19/2010: Scientists at Michigan State found that microbes are important for promoting biodiversity and cleaning the environment, reported PhysOrg.  Because many of them can live for long periods in a dormant state, they can hold out in unfavorable conditions and respond to environmental cues.  “Microbes are the most abundant and diverse organisms on earth; they carry out essential ecosystem services,” said one of the scientists.  “Among these services are contaminant degradation, carbon sequestration and various processes that affect plant productivity.”Are you really an “individual”?  Yes and no; you couldn’t live without your contingent of microbes constantly at your service.  We are beginning to see biology as hierarchies of interrelated systems.  Who would have thought that our health depends on microbes digesting methane seeping out of the deep ocean?  Who would have thought that the air we breathe and the plants we consume owe their existence to hundreds of billions of metric tons of organisms too small to see?  Who would have thought that channels deep under the crust and ocean are thriving habitats for life?  Earth’s biosphere is a system of systems of systems – each of them showcasing intelligent design at all levels.    Unfortunately, some of the articles spoiled their otherwise good content with evolutionary non-sequiturs.  They told us that SITI is a first step to SETI – finding intraterrestrial life helps the search for extraterrestrial life.  That’s like saying finding a library in a large city will help locate libraries on Mars.  They told us that microbes were around billions of years before humans arrived – an unsupported assertion.  They told us that since microbes can digest methane on Earth, they might be digesting it on Titan.  Such statements serve little more than to restate reigning dogmas.  Learn to keep them separate from the observational facts, and you can still enjoy scientific articles.(Visited 15 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

SA to spend billions on hospital upgrades

first_img Engineers would provide strategic management of these massive projects, including developing norms and standards for clinics and big hospitals. Motsoaledi said that one of the problems that had led to deterioration in some state hospitals – Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in particular – was that the department had used doctors to manage infrastructure projects. “We will put massive investment – it will be more than what the country spent during the soccer World Cup,” Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told reporters at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban on Monday. 29 September 2010 South Africa is to spend billions of rands on massive upgrades of five of the country’s major public hospitals, using the experience gained in building stadiums for the 2010 Fifa World Cup in implementing the projects. Motsoaledi said the government wanted to use the experience gained in building the 2010 Fifa World Cup stadiums in implementing these projects. Task teams had been put in place to start planning the rebuilding projects at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in the Eastern Cape, Dr George Mukhari and Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospitals in Gauteng, and the Limpopo Academic Hospital. In the case of Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, renovation and expansion work began years ago and is far advanced. Located on the outskirts of Soweto, Johannesburg, the hospital is the biggest on the continent, covering 0.7km² and serving approximately 3.5-million people. Motsoaledi said the government had identified infrastructure development as key to transforming health care delivery in South Africa. “This was because of an honest introspection that informed us that we have not done much in the past 16 years,” he said. Hospitals had been chosen as flagship projects in fast-tracking infrastructure development in public health, in part because they provided referral services to mainly rural communities. Motsoaledi also warned that provinces that underspent on their infrastructure budgets would have them taken away. This was in light of a report showing that the provinces have been underspending on their infrastructure budgets over the past five years. Source: BuaNewslast_img read more

Stop Helping Clients Chase the Bottom

first_imgA business owner sells a product. A new salesperson shows up and teaches the business owner that by changing some of the component parts of his product that he can create that product at a lower cost. This makes his product and business more profitable.Later, another salesperson shows up and teaches the business owner that buy choosing another cheaper component part (in addition to the one he’s already installed in his product) that he can manufacture his product at an even lower price and capture even more profit.This whole “cheaper” thing is really starting to pay off. The business owner follows this path. He continues to try to find lower-priced components with which to manufacture his product. But over time, his product has changed. The product is not as high quality as it was when he originally created it. The perception of value has changed. Now it’s cheaper.Slowly at first, then faster, the business owner loses market share to competitors with a product that costs more but is of significantly higher quality. The competitor’s product is perceived as being more valuable–and it’s not the lowest price.As fewer and fewer people are willing to buy the business owners product, he begins to lower his price in an attempt to compete with product’s that cost more. He tries desperately to widen the perception of value. Now with the perception of value destroyed, he competes on price. In doing so, he is less and less profitable.You are hurting your customer by helping them find a lower price if it hurts their long-term business prospects. Your job as a sales person (and good business partner) is to help your clients create more value. If you can help them produce greater value at the same or lower price, that’s a good thing. It’s helping them obtain a lower price in a way that doesn’t hamper their ability to deliver value to their customers. But if what you sell them reduces the value that they create for their clients, then you are harming them by winning the business on price and allowing your client to underinvest in the real outcome they need.By helping your clients chase the bottom on price you may be helping them destroy the value they create.QuestionWhat part do you play in your client’s value chain?How do you help your clients deliver value to their customers?When is it wrong to help your client obtain a lower price?When is cheaper better? Is the cheapest product ever the best product in its category? Essential Reading! Get my 3rd book: Eat Their Lunch “The first ever playbook for B2B salespeople on how to win clients and customers who are already being serviced by your competition.” Buy Nowlast_img read more

Parties’ tall claims for rejuvenation of lakes

first_imgThough both the major political parties have been making tall claims for rejuvenation of water bodies in the “City of Lakes”, the voters here are disillusioned with their “restricted vision” which they say is unable to grasp the significance of the ecosystem that ensures protection of catchment areas. The lakes here are facing a major issue of pollution and reduction of submergence area.After the successful removal of water hyacinth about six years ago, the water bodies such as Pichola Lake, Swaroop Sagar and Udai Sagar are facing contamination caused by the discharge of pollutants from the phosphorite mines and chemical factories and the release of sewage and domestic waste from settlements and hotels.The residents of the city expect the two stalwarts pitted against each other – Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria (BJP) and former Union Minister Girija Vyas (Congress) – to resolve the lake pollution issue for saving the identity of Udaipur, on which the survival of tourism business depends.Udaipur district BJP president Dinesh Bhatt told The Hindu that the State government was making “serious efforts” for conservation of lakes. Mr. Kataria, contesting for the fourth consecutive term, has highlighted his achievements on the law and order front as the Home Minister and the city’s infrastructure development as the MLA during his election campaign. He has credited the jump in Udaipur’s rank as a tourist destination to the projects initiated by the BJP government.On the other hand, District Congress Committee general secretary Saddam Hussain said Ms. Vyas’ return to the constituency after serving in the Centre as the National Commission for Women’s chairperson was a challenge before Mr. Kataria which he would find difficult to face. On the lake front, the Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti and the Jheel Hitaishi Nagrik Manch have taken up the initiatives for educating the people and cleaning the water bodies. Manch’s founder Haji Sardar Mohammed said the community efforts for taking out pollutants and aquatic weeds through boats had led to an improvement in the situation. The activists working for conservation of lakes have demanded that the next government centralise the works currently undertaken by as many as five different agencies.last_img read more