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"Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn't often, on their own, the hard way."
- Robert Heinlein

Sours  
  The odor created in enclosed space environments due to the need for bacilli for healthy soil.  

Each Concatenate world faced biological problems as it aged.

Fertile soil required a minimum of ten million bacterial cells per cubic centimeter. This invisible swarm formed the basis of everything fruitful...

But humanity and its symbionts had thrown aside the blanket of atmosphere...The circumlunar worlds had shields of imported lunar rubble whole meters deep, but they could not escape the bursts of solar flares and the random shots of backshots of cosmic radiation.

Without bacteria, the soil was a lifeless heap of imported lunar dust. With them, it was a constant mutational hazard.

The Republic struggled to control its Sours...Mutant fungi had spread like oil slicks, forming a mycelial crust beneath the surface of the soil

From Schismatrix, by Bruce Sterling.
Published by Arbor House in 1985
Additional resources -

Arthur C. Clarke skipped over this problem with Rama, which was probably the largest such environment in sf. As I recall, there was a sort of musty odor when they first entered the craft.

And, lest you think that soil bacteria is a dull subject with no possible interest, consider this:

The soil is a most amazing and largely undiscovered realm with over 2 million species. Although it forms part of the terrestrial ecosystems, it is nonetheless an entirely separate environment, not or hardly mixing with any of the other, the terrestrial, fresh water and oceanic realms. Soil species are biologically very varied because they cannot travel easily. Rivers, lakes, mountains and seas form impassable barriers, leading to intensive variation and specialization.
Read more at this cool New Zealand site.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Schismatrix
  More Ideas and Technology by Bruce Sterling
  Tech news articles related to Schismatrix
  Tech news articles related to works by Bruce Sterling

Sours-related news articles:
  - Gene Expression of Microbes Changes in Low Gravity Bioreactor
  - Unwanted Life Forms Abound In Sick Spacecraft
  - Bacteria Behave Differently In Space

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New Lifelike Material Powered By Artificial Metabolism

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