Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Bacteria Torture Tests Demonstrate Evolution

Trapped in flasks by resolute scientists, bacteria do their best to survive. Dr. Richard E. Lenski has kept his E. coli bacteria captive since 1989. For more than 40,000 generations, these hardy organisms have known nothing but the world that Dr. Lenski has created for them.


(Dr. Richard Lenski)

Over time, the bacteria have evolved. They are twice as large as their common ancestor. They are also quicker to reproduce, dividing 70 percent faster.

The bacteria have also evolved solutions to the torture tests devised by Dr. Lenski. He created 12 identical lines of E. coli and then fed them short rations of glucose. Out of sugar by afternoon, most would die; Dr. Lenski transfered the few survivors to a fresh flask.

The bacteria evolved quickly, reproducing faster. Evolution tended to follow the same path in the 12 different sets of bacteria.

Dr. Lenski's work with captive bacteria has also provided us with more information about antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistant bacteria have become a serious problem around the world; the costs of new anti-biotics have skyrocketed in a sort of pharmaceutical arms race.

In a 1998 paper, Dr. Lenski demonstrated that once bacteria have adapted to antibiotics, the resistance gene remains in the population long after the antibiotics are withdrawn. Simply suspending the use of antibiotics becomes a less effective tool over time.

Other scientists have been working in this area as well. Bacteria adapted to 68 degree cold were forced to adapt to 104 degree heat. E. coli are forced to adapt to a new diet of glycerol (found in soap). As the organisms adapt, scientists learn more about how evolution works.

This strategy was suggested by several science fiction writers. In Theodore Sturgeon's famous short story Macrocosmic God, published in 1941, a scientist imprisoned tiny creatures he called Neoterics in an escape-proof habitat, and forced them to solve problems for him.

He couldn't speed up mankind's intellectual advancement enough to have it teach him the things his incredible mind yearned for. he couldn't speed himself up. So he created a new race - a race which would develop and evolve so fast that it would surpass the civilization of man; and from them he would learn.

They were completely in Kidder's power. Earth's normal atmosphere would poison them, as he took care to demonstrate to every fourth generation... They would make ... their little trial and error experiments hundreds of times faster than man...
(Read more about the Neoterics)

A similar strategy was proposed several years earlier by science fiction writer Edmund Hamilton in his 1937 short story Fessenden's Worlds. Eccentric scientist Arnold Fessenden altered the destinies of solar systems, often destroying entire civilizations.

Between the two disks, floating unsupported in the air, hung a cloud of tiny sparks of light. It looked like a swarm of minute golden bees, countless in number, and the swarm was lenticular in shape. Mounted near this weird thing were several instruments that looked a little like telescopes, though unfamiliar in design. They seemed to be trained on that thick little cloud of shining sparks...

"Fessenden's eyes had been following my stupefied change of expression. He said calmly, "Yes... it is true. That is a tiny, self-sustaining universe, with its own suns, nebulae and worlds.
(Read more about Hamilton's miniature universe)

Via Fast-Reproducing Microbes Provide a Window on Natural Selection and Bacterial evolution and the cost of antibiotic resistance.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/26/2007)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

Let's Make Slaver Sunflowers! Engineering Plants To Reflect Light
'The mirror-blossom was a terrible weapon.' - Larry Niven, 1965.

Machete-Wielding Philodendron Isn't Going To Take It Anymore
'The tree ended its wild larruping, stood like a dreaming giant liable to wake into frenzy at any moment.' - Eric Frank Russell, 1943.

Tsunami Forecasts Improved By Ionosphere Signals
'Swifter than any tide could ebb, the water was receding from the shore.'

EctoLife Concept Video Artificial Womb For Baby Mass Production
'A great many of these synthetic babies were made and allowed to grow up under ideal conditions...' - Dr. David H. Keller, 1928.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

SpaceX Wants A Moonbase Alpha
'And he had been sent with troops, supplies and bombs to command Russia's most trusted post, the Moonbase.'

Vast Apartment Living Will Get Even More Vast
'What is your population', I asked. 'About eighty millions.'

NASA Wants Self-Driving Or Remote-Controlled Vehicles For Lunar Astronauts
'THE autobus turned silently down the wide street of Hydropole. Robot-guided, insulated from noise and cold...'

Elon Musk Says Robotaxis Will Be Ready This August, 2024
'The car had no steering wheel, and no one drove!'

Moonwalkers AI-Controlled Electric Shoes
Now that's power walking that Hugo Gernsback would have approved.

Steve Jobs: 'Capture The Next Aristotle - With AI'
'It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct...'

No Tips! Robotic Food Delivery In Phoenix
'...he rewired the delivery robot so that it would serve him midnight snacks.'

Electric Catamaran 'Explorer Eco 40m' Has 'Solar Skin'
'On went the electric-yacht faster and still faster.'

Orbital Mechanics, The Liftoff, The Turnover, The Retrograde Burn
'...the huge vessel had spun, with a sickening lurch, through a complete half-circle, the instant the power was reversed.'

Harvest Power From Tears And Blinking With Smart Contact Lens
'...he realized that it was not quite a clear lens. Speckles of colored brightness swirled and gathered in it.'

Europa Clipper Plate Carries A Special Message
'...a universal cryptogram yet it is one which can be interpreted by any intelligent creature on any planet in the Solar System!'

Micro-Robots Are Smallest, Fully Functional
'With a whir, the Scarab shot from the concealing shadows of the corner where it had hidden itself.'

AI Enhances Images Your Brain Sees
'I could have sworn the psychomat showed pictures almost as sharp and detailed as reality itself'

Illustrating Classic Heinlein With AI
'Stasis, cold sleep, hibernation, hypothermia, reduced metabolism, call it what you will - the logistics-medicine research teams had found a way to stack people like cordwood and use them when needed.'

Deflector Plasma Screen For Drones ala Star Wars
'If the enemy persists in attacking or even intensifies their power, the density of the plasma in space will suddenly increase, causing it to reflect most of the incoming energy like a mirror.'

DIY Robotic Hand Made After Loss Of Fingers
'I made them... with the fine work of the watchmaker...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.