The Microme Century

I’ve been thinking for years that SF’s love affair with nanotech was really just a symptom of a disease afflicting both physicists and technocrats in general: microorganism envy, or rather, the envy of those who work with the fascinating microworlds of biology. Well, this article has some interesting suggestions about how the growing realization of just how much of a role bacteria play in human life, and the biosphere generally.

Bacteria-mediated and bacteria-friendly surgery. The human Microme project. The mental health effects of bacteria in yogurt. This is definitely an article to check out for anyone who wants some idea of the weirdness of this so-called biotech century we’re in. Ha, and homebrewed beer fits into that, too, I’m sure.

After all, as my favorite homebrewing blogger, The Mad Fermentationist, suggests in the name of his blog, there’s something scientific–in terms of microbiology–to the art of brewing beer the old-fashioned (or new-old-fangled) way.

Well, and as for my own mad fermentation experiments:

  • I need to rack my Abbey Wheat into a carboy, and will likely to it tonight.
  • While I’m at it, I’ll be setting up a small sour mash to leave around for the weekend. (I would like to brew up my all-Brett(anomyces Clausenii) batch on Sunday or Monday, but it depends on how the souring goes, as well as on how the Brett starter goes. The first step of the starter was vigorous, producing a nicely tart beer, but I stupidly used a loosely-placed on the top of the flask for the second step-up; I returned home to find the stopper had been shot off the erlenmeyer flask. Now it’s in a big 1-gallon jug with more wort (fed it twice, both times while it’s krausening) and has some sanitized aluminium foil over the top, but I’ll need to wait and see a few days whether some kind of mold or bacteria got in there when the erlenmeyer flask was sitting open. Even then, I’ll just be hoping it didn’t happen. I’m new to making starters — these are only my third or fourth — and I’ll be tightening up my technique for sure.
  • Still hunting for an all-Brett recipe I want to do. The one in Wild Brews looks okay, but a little simple. I’m thinking something with a little bit more malty complexity might be nice. We’ll see what recipe research turns up. I have to do a conference talk tomorrow afternoon, so the brewing cannot happen till Sunday or Monday anyway!

4 thoughts on “The Microme Century

  1. It’s not science-fiction anymore. You might want to catch this new TV program. This is from the first episode.

    But is this really a good thing? Right now, people are rampaging in the streets in France over moving the age of retirement back just a couple of years. What will happen when these new technologies allow more and more people to live even longer lives (well past a hundred) without concrete fixes to the system of paying for all these extra years that they will be living and not working? Will future young people revolt over having to carry these deadweight oldsters and go on a mass killing spree to lessen their tax burdens? Looks like science-fiction might have to delve into this arena soon. Wait, I’ve already seen it. Well, a version of it.

    1. John,

      Thanks for the links and suggestions.

      Well, there are people researching nanotech but I think it’s going to be a fairly long time before we see anything capable of surgery coming out of the tanks. As for life-extension, well, functional life-extension will denecessitate retirement, I suppose, but will also necessitate greater fluidity in career change patterns, and will likely have to either do something wonderful to our brains, or shift us to increasingly more doable careers as time goes by. (Unless life-extension techniques to very special things to brains, we’re still going to see some–however reduced–degeneration of brain function as we get older, and we’re still going to have to transition from, say, mathematics or biochemistry to, say, day-care or schoolteaching when the hardware gives out too much. Very few people do breakthrough work when they are grey.) At the same time, I think we’ll start to realize that infantilizing teenagers and imprisoning our brightest in schools that are set up like monkey cages in zoos is probably robbing us of a lot of potentially interesting innovation, as well as robbing them of a meaningful existence for the duration of their “schooling.”

      As for SF not dealing with the social effects of life-extension, well, it has been dealing with it. Not TV SF, but TV SF has always been relatively stupider than written SF a long ways behind written SF. I’d say you might want to look at books if you want some interesting responses to life extension. For example, Bruce Sterling’s Holy Fire, and apparently Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy (not that I’ve read them, but supposedly life extension and its social effects are part of it), as well as short stories by people like… well, indeed, like me. My story “Country of the Young” (from Interzone 219, ebook available here) deals with the “immigration politics” of life-extension, in a specifically (post-reunification North) Korean setting. There’s more out there, too, but I’ll leave it to you to dig it out.

  2. It’s not quite “nano” yet, but the program does show that some “mircrobots” are now ready for human trials after now having finished some very promising animal testing.

    Also, I was actually referring to the written words of Nolan and Johnson, but I like the opening to the short-lived series based on their book and it is more attention getting than a static Wikipedia page. Dammit, now I’m reading the book again. Luckily, it’s really short and fast-moving.

    Also, you might want to brush up on Robert A. Heinlein’s, “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag.” It’s about to be made into a film.

  3. John,

    Huh, well, I’d love commercial nanotech, if it were stable and viable. One mess-up, though, and…

    I’ve read neither the story nor the novel you mention. Ah, if only there were time for every book…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *