In the two "Darwin" books, the bacteria have always been intelligent, a single hive mind nearly 4 billion years old. Every once in awhile, they get bored, and evolve things all at once. Humanity speciates in a period of about 24 months. Pretty neat, if you've not read it, little flaky at the end.
Vitals is my favorite, because of the conspiracy theory angle. An immortality researcher finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy that dates back to the 1920s USSR (CCCP for our cyrillic friends out there). Long story short (no spoilers), even as this researcher is getting close to figuring out how to live forever, he discovers that a russian scientist figured them out nearly 70 years ago, and that those who are now immortal (or at least, hold the secrets without maybe using them) are in some plot to rule the world. At the end, he meets the russian scientist, who believes that the bacteria pretty much created humanity as spaceships to move around in. More importantly, he also believes the bacteria are divinely pissed off at us.
The mental disorder is called pica. It causes its victims to eat bizarre things, most notably soil. Like, digging out in the garden, soil. Sometimes other things, but I believe I'm correct when saying this is the most common craving for the poor lunatics. Some chalk it up as a nutritional deficiency, so maybe I'm being harsh. Sue me.
Finally, the slashdot linked article described how a new technique showed that instead of maybe 1000 species of bacteria in a random 1cm<super>3</super> sample of soil, there might be more like 1 million species.
I don't really have any coherent thoughts about how all these things relate, but it's strange because all 3 are not really all that recent for me. They just sort of "click". It feels pretty fucking weird to be cooking macaroni and cheese on the stove, and all 3 of these hit you out of nowhere.
No, I do not use recreational pharmaceuticals.
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