Do Not Lick This Blog Post

This list was originally compiled as a “fun facts”-type publicity handout a while back; thought you might like it too.

1) Some microbes can survive temperatures of over 120°C (about 250°F).

2) If you were to place all the bacterial cells found in an average cow stomach end to end, you’d go insane. It’s really really hard.

3) Plus it would stink to high heaven.

4) I imagine the cow wouldn’t be too happy about it either.

5) Contrary to popular opinion, bacteria can and do engage in sexual activity. See chapter 4 of the book for the shocking details

6) Under optimal conditions, the life span of a single microbial cell is: forever

7) about 1 out of 5 people do not wash their hands after going to the toilet. Look around the room. How many hands have you shaken today?

8 ) Microbial infections can cause or aid the development of mental illness.

9) Microbes account for 1-2 kilograms of your body weight.

10) Bacteriological tests show that a typical toilet bowl is a much cleaner place than a typical office computer keyboard.

11) Despite the previous fact, most people are healthy most of the time. This is an important thing to bear in mind when reading scary hygiene statistics. We have an immune system. It works well.

12) The humble cockroach, hailed in popular myth as radiation proof, is about ten times more resistant to radiation than humans. The bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans thrives happily after being zapped with 1,500 times the human lethal dose, and can apparently withstand twice that.

13) A human fetus is sterile, i.e. it is not contaminated by bacteria. A week-old human baby’s gut already contains a thriving bacterial community, which is essential to its future health and wellbeing. Unintentional contamination of the baby by fecal matter is an important role of good motherhood, but one that is rarely if ever mentioned.

14) Despite increased federal funding in the last two decades, the illiteracy rate among fungi is still estimated at 99.99%.

15) The original life forms on earth, appearing about 4 billion years ago were microbial. The vast majority of life on earth, both in diversity and in numbers, always was and still is microbial.

16) The original microbial life forms were anaerobic, i.e., oxygen was poisonous to them. Some of their descendants today still are.

17) The HIV virus was originally discovered on a 1971 secret manned NASA mission to Venus, but the government hushed it up.

18) Every time you wash your hands, thousands upon thousands of microbes die horrible deaths.

19) the bacterial species Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus is the fastest swimmer in the world (relative to body size); if one such cell were enlarged to one-tenth human size and placed in a pool to compete against Michael Phelps in the 100-meter freestyle, it would swim the distance in about six seconds. It would then proceed to attach to Phelps, bore a hole in him, climb in and devour him from the inside. Thankfully, real Bdellovibrio restrict themselves to hunting other bacteria.

20) There are an estimated 10 microbial cells in or on your body for every “human” cell.

I’m actually not a big fan of “fun facts” (as you may have noticed reading mine). I don’t trust facts without context. The right kind of fun fact, for me, is one that doesn’t just give you a short spray of levity and then dissolves; it stays around in my brain and demands a proper context to fit into, and will not let go until I provide one.


One thought on “Do Not Lick This Blog Post

  1. Hi Idan,

    I’m the Library Co-ordinator for the Australian Poetry Centre. We’re bringing our mobile poetry library up to Words in Winter, but also, we’re organising an event for Science Week, bringing poetry and science together on a panel.

    Science Week is from Sat 14th to Sun 22nd August, so I’m hoping this panel could occur on Sat 14th (or Sun 15th). I’m currently tracking down a poet to read their own work and/or talk about how science influences their work, but I’m also wondering if you would be interested in being involved (and available). There’s a modest fee which we can pay to speakers, by the way.

    Send me an email with your thoughts when you can.


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