Drosophilia pupa

Paleomicrobiology and Other Interests

So every now and then I run across a book I would really love to read, but cannot bring myself to justify buying – not even in the name of research. Paleomicrobiology of Humans is one such. (You can read a detailed review of it here, if you’re interested) It’s a fascinating concept, and although it’s not a new one (the first use of the word was in 1969) with modern technology, I can only imagine the stories that would unfold using techniques to extract the DNA of our fellow travelers on the threads of time.

Because that’s what this book is about, the study of microbes, parasites, and pests that are dependent on humans as hosts. Studying them reveals the paths of ancient epidemics that in turn influenced the rise and fall of entire civilization – the lowly louse foiled invasion, the mosquito rendered a continent nearly uninhabitable, and notoriously the flea carried the plague into homes for centuries. Through the use of molecular techniques, science can now garner more information about the lives of humans through history, as well as their ignominious deaths. I find it fascinating. Study of internal parasites reveals a better timeline of when humans began to live in cities. Trench fever may have been the scourge WWI, but it has been found in human remains from thousands of years prior.

Humanity’s tiny hitchhikers reveal more than disease – they can illuminate the changes in diet that were caused not only by the rise of agriculture and later refinements of it, but the climate changes that inevitably influence what we eat, and how often. The inner child in me is amused by the study of fossilized poop, which the inner scientist finds compelling as it reveals in detail the diet of ancient societies. Internal parasites vary, and can tell us if one part of a region held people who favored fish in their diet, while another ate more corn and mushrooms.

I find stuff like this, and happily bounce down rabbit trails before I rein myself in and remind myself that there’s not enough time in a lifetime to research all the things I’m interested in. Still…


4 responses to “Paleomicrobiology and Other Interests”

  1. This is why I am so thankful that believers have eternity on the New Earth — so we can explore all these interesting rabbit trails! And do all the things we don’t have time or ability or means to do now!

  2. PapaPat .Patterson Avatar
    PapaPat .Patterson

    Cedar, you are moving in the right direction with paleomicrobiology. I think that EVERY field of study needs at LEAST two modifiers; it makes them so much more interesting, in my opinion.
    I keep a bag of 4 ounce Tupperware containers, and draw (with replacement!) before I choose a particular field. Here, let’s pull one: ‘Xeno.’ Okay, that will work nicely with what you have: A Paleo Micro Xeno Biologist!
    Draw another one: Binary. Here, we can experiment with some substitution: Binary Paleo Xeno Biologist.
    Crypto is a good selection as well. But, let’s consider a different base field. How about Micro Paleo Crypto Gerontologist?
    Pull some more, and switch them around: A Crypto Sedimentary Paleo Statistician!
    A Xeno Linguistic Micro Epidemiologist.
    A Theoretical Para Agronomist: does that need another qualifier?
    A Semi Parasitic Vestibular Paleo Linguist. If that was your field of study, you could get away with ANYTHING! You could circulate on campus wearing a lab coat, and carrying a clipboard with a stopwatch on your neck, walk into ANY room in which someone was standing, and kick them right in the ass, start your stopwatch and stare at them intently with the stub of a pencil clenched in your other hand, and you could either wait for them to react, or not: it wouldn’t make any difference! You have the PERFECT justification, because you are a Semi Parasitic Vestibular Paleo Linguist! Kick em again, after you’ve stopped timing them, because it’s just like using HTML; if you have you have to have , or it goofs things up.

    Okay, I’m going to try to take a nap now.

  3. PapaPat .Patterson Avatar
    PapaPat .Patterson

    erm… that wasn’t actually supposed to bold that section of text. it was supposed to say, “if you have (the letter b inside brackets), you have to have (a slash letter b inside brackets) or it goofs things up.”