Print Story Some weird thoughts...
Religion & Philosophy
By NoMoreNicksLeft (Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 10:56:04 AM EST) pica, mental disorders, biology, scifi, Greg Bear (all tags)
Some time last week, a series of thoughts clicked into place all at once, and I'm having trouble putting them at the back of my mind. They're apparently triggered by 3 things: some science fiction novels written by Greg Bear, a bizarre mental disorder that I swear I've not read or heard about in years, and another slashdot article that I can't even find, but would have been at least 6 months ago.

The science fiction novels are, in no particular order, Blood Music, Darwin's Radio, Darwin's Children, and Vitals. The first is only relevant in that it was the seed of a concept for him, that being that bacteria, could at least in theory, be intelligent in the aggregate. In that novel, they are engineered that way, by a guy that gets dissolved into protoplasm by his own white blood cells, just to see if they could do it.

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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Some weird thoughts... | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)
You Are Mentally Disturbed by Improbus (2.00 / 0) #1 Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 11:14:20 AM EST
Welcome to the club!  Your membership card is in the mail.

If you immediately know the candlelight is fire, the meal was cooked a long time ago. --- Oma Desala
OMG I see the connection by LodeRunner (2.00 / 0) #2 Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 12:09:17 PM EST
I studied about this at school a long time ago, let me see if I can find a link... here it is. There is a disease caused by parasites called Anchylostomiasis that causes humans to eat soil.

There's no need to be an ass. by NoMoreNicksLeft (2.00 / 0) #3 Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 12:27:50 PM EST
For one, I wasn't even thinking along the lines of "bacteria are unicellular agents of disease". That's rather boring.

The connection seems deeper than that, at least to me.

Of course, now that you've made fun of my random thoughts, please tell us yours so I can do the same. No, let me guess:

  • Hungry, must eat.
  • Bad person mean, me no like.
  • Great rock spirit will rescue me.
No, I fail it. Somehow, those aren't nearly primitive enough.
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]
Hey, calm down by LodeRunner (2.00 / 0) #4 Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 01:27:00 PM EST
I wasn't being sarcastic. I just thought that the notion of parasites causing a mental illness that impulses a human into introducing more parasites into their own body (given that soil is full of them) was in line with the hive-mind aspect explored by the sci-fi stories.

[ Parent ]
Oh. My bad. by NoMoreNicksLeft (2.00 / 0) #5 Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 03:30:12 PM EST
Well, I'm not sure what the point is. To introduce more of them? To fix some sort of balance? Maybe the hive mind is worried that it's only thinking with one hemisphere, and is trying to import the rest?

But Bear is on to something, I think, even if he has the details wrong.
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

[ Parent ]
Some weird thoughts... | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)