May 14, 2007

Size doesn't Matter

Never underestimate the power of a microorganism. Though they are invisible, they are definitely invincible for our day to day life. Only 3% of the total microbial population are harmful to the humans, they help us in many fields such as agriculture, food industries, bioremediation etc. Without knowing about the microbes, we are getting their help from the historic days such as souring of milk, Dosai and Idly dough making, Wine production etc.

Here are some of the interesting facts about them,

  • Usually we all think bacteria are microscopic and cannot be seen with naked eye. A team of German scientists studying sediment samples collected off the coast of Namibia say they have discovered the largest bacteria cell ever observed. The organism can grow to as large as 3/4 of a millimeter across, which means it is visible to the naked eye as a speck - about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
  • The pressure inside a bacterial cell is about 2 atmospheres, which is roughly the same as the pressure in a car's tyre.
  • We all know that cheetah is the fastest animal on earth. But when the speed is calculated in terms of 'Body length/second', bacterium is twice as faster as a cheetah.
  • Remember Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" where the DNA of a dinosaur is taken from a prehistoric mosquito and the dinosaur is re-created? That was fiction, but now a group of scientists have obtained bacterial spores from the gut of an extinct bee trapped in amber of known geological age. This spore is claimed to be 25 to 40 million years old and what is more amazing is that, it has sprouted out and the bacterium is revived.
  • Microorganisms are eliminated from an environment by various means of physical or chemical treatments. But there are always some exceptions which can withstand any extreme conditions. Deinococcus radiodurans is a bacterium which can survive exposure to upto 3000000 rad of ionizing radiation. A human can be killed by exposure to less than 500 rad radiation.
  • Botulin' is a toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum. It is highly toxic in nature and a very minute amount is needed to kill a human. If everyone in India has to be killed and assuming that everyone gets a lethal dose, less than 1kg of this toxin will do.
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