Monday, November 5, 2007

Secrets #1

Okay, these really aren't in order, but...

They're not necessarily secrets either.

#1 Think Fractally

What does that mean? Basically it's the belief that whatever we see or recognize as a system or object will have systems or objects with similar characteristics at other scales. A simple example is the thought that atoms and molecules have characteristics similar to, say, stars, planets and solar systems. One might then expect similar behavior at the level of, say, protons and electrons, individual people, and galaxies.

To a large degree this is a metaphoric construct. Most of the details at each level don't synch, but it's useful, I think, for using the kinds of qualities and relationships we can observe at one level, and seeing if we can use those to help identify something similar.

The topic of 'communication' is interesting to look at in this regard. If we consider communication broadly, as a set of signals that are sent and received by more than one entity, with the nature of subsequent signals sent by one entity partially determined by the signals received from another, then one can consider activities like the movement of the planets and tree respiration to be in some way related.

However, a better case of communication at different levels is this (from Israel21C):

The discovery by a team of Israeli researchers of a new communication factor that enables bacteria to 'talk to each other' and causes their death could have significant consequences leading to development of a new class of antibiotic medications.

Bacteria are traditionally considered unicellular organisms. However, increasing experimental evidence indicates that bacteria seldom behave as isolated organisms. Instead, they are members of a community in which the isolated organisms communicate among themselves, thereby manifesting some multi-cellular behaviors.

In an article published in the journal Science, a group of Hebrew University scientists describe the new communication factor they have discovered that is produced by the intestinal bacteria Escherichia coli. The new factor is secreted by the bacteria and serves as a communication signal between single bacterial cells.
...

The discovered communication factor is a novel biological molecule, noted Engelberg-Kulka. It is a peptide (a very small protein) that is produced by the bacteria. The chemical characterization of the new communication factor was particularly difficult for the researchers because of two main reasons: it is present in the bacterial culture in minute amounts, and the factor decomposes under the conditions that are routinely used during standard chemical characterization methods. Therefore, it was necessary to develop a new specific method.

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