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In the Company of Microbes. Ten Years of Small Things Considered. Edition No. 1. ASM Books

  • ID: 5225410
  • Book
  • May 2016
  • 292 Pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd

A look at the amazing, groovy world of microbes

With more than 1,000 posts and 2 million views, the esteemed blog Small Things Considered has been sparking the imagination of microbiologists for an entire decade. Throughout the years, Elio Schaechter and his team of dedicated bloggers have shared exciting, unexpected, and unusual stories from the microbial world.

In the Company of Microbes is a carefully selected treasure chest of wise, amusing, and even profound statements about the ubiquity and relevance of the microbial world. Schaechter, past ASM Presidents, and distinguished microbiologists from around the globe reflect on personal, sometimes historic interactions with microbes and unexpected discoveries, each essay conveying the excitement and sense of surprise that microbiology holds for them. This is the reason that Small Things Considered is a scientific and social media phenomenon that has impacted scientists at every stage of their careers and shared the magical of microbes with world.

Join Schaechter in discovering a never-ending pageant of astounding variations on the theme of microbial life. Enjoy!

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Contributors x

Introduction xi

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xv

What Do We Mean by a Talmudic Question? xvi

Part 1: The View from Here

1 Of Ancient Curses, Microbes, and the ASM 3
Bonnie L. Bassler

2 On the Evolution of the Genetic Code 6
Charles Yanofsky

3 Microbes Touch Everything 8
Tim Donohue

4 Getting a Handle on Cell Organization 11
Franklin M. Harold

5 The Age of Imaging 16

6 Bacillus subtilis: Wild and Tame 19
Richard Losick

7 The Tyranny of Phylogeny: An Exhortation 22

8 Virus in the Room 24
Welkin Johnson

9 Feynman Said “Just Look at the Thing!” 27
Jan Spitzer

10 Self-Assembly For Me 34

11 On the Definition of Prokaryotes 37
Nanne Nanninga

12 The Microbial Nature of Humans 42
Maureen O’Malley

13 Good Writing Beats Bad Writing, Most Any Day 47

14 Finally, Farewell to “Stamp Collecting” 52
Christoph Weigel

Part 2: Accounts of the Past

15 Esther Lederberg: Pioneer of Bacterial Genetics 59
Mercé Piqueras

16 How Proteomics Got Started 66
Fred Neidhardt

17 Did van Leeuwenhoek Observe Yeast Cells in 1680? 72
Nanne Nanninga

18 The Louse and the Vaccine 76

19 The Ten-Minute Leeuwenhoek Microscope 80
Patrick Keeling

20 Microbiology in the Andes: Ancient and Unexpected 84

21 Dr. Rous’s Prize-Winning Chicken 87
Welkin Johnson

22 The Two Quantitative Steps in the Biology Growth Curve 90

23 A Tale of Centenarians 93
Claudio Schazzocchio

24 A Failed Experiment 99

25 “Microbe Hunters” by Paul DeKruif: A Major Force in Microbiological History 104

26 Fecal Transplants in the “Good Old Days” 106
Stanley Falkow

27 Requiem for a Machine 110

28 Mad Dogs and Microbiologists 113
William C. Summers

29 Joshua Lederberg and the “Cellularity” of Bacteria 118

Part 3: Small Wonders

30 Where Art Thou, O Nucleoid? 123
Conrad Woldringh

31 Teaching E. coli to Endocytose 126

32 The Awesomest Thing in Biology 130

33 Let’s Not Forget Acetabularia 134

34 The Fastest Flights in Nature 139

35 Fungal Alchemy: Using Radiation as a Source of Energy 141

36 Arms and the Fungus 143

37 Bacterial Hopanoids: The Lipids That Last Forever 146

38 A Bacterium Learns Long Division 150
Nanne Nanninga

39 Commuting to Work 153

Part 4: On Being a Microbiologist

40 Directed Science, Curiosity-Driven Science, and Striking the Balanc 159
Jeff F. Miller

41 The Gender Bias of Science Faculty 163
Vincent Racaniello

42 The Excitement of Clinical Microbiology 166

43 The Bacterial Chromosome: A Physical Biologist’s Apology. A Perspective 171
Suckjoon Jun

44 Whose Planet is It Anyway? 177

45 If Microbes Could Tweet 181
Daniel P. Haeusser

46 State Microbes 183

47 Recalling the Good in the Good Old Days 187

48 The Attendee’s Guide to Scientific Meetings 189
Julian Davies

Part 5: Personal Notes

49 The Encyclopedia and I 195

50 The Guild 198

51 The Magasanik Paradox 200

Part 6: The Ways of Microbes

52 The Parvome 205
Julian Davies

53 The World is Pleiotropic 208

54 Constructing a Synthetic Mycoplasma 211
Shmuel Razin

55 By Chance and Necessity:The Role of the Cytoskeleton in the Genesis of Eukaryotes 214
Daniel P. Haeusser

56 The Gram Stain: Its Persistence and Its Quirks 221

57 On the Continuity of Biological Membranes 226
Franklin M. Harold

58 Energetics of the Eukaryotic Edge 223
Franklin M. Harold

59 The Road to Microbial Endocrinology 238
Mark Lyte

60 Begetting the Eukarya: An Unexpected Light 244
Franklin M. Harold

61 The Higgs Boson and Biology 253

62 The Power of Fungal Genetics: Cassava for Food Security and Sustainability in Colombia 257
Chris Condaya, Peter Geoghan

63 Why is It So Hard to Make an HIV Vaccine? 259
John Coffin

64 Measuring Up 263
Jamie Henzy

Part 7: Teaching Things

65 On Teaching 267
Stanley Falkow

66 Hello Again, Metabolism! 271
Amy Cheng Vollmer

67 Why Medical Microbiology is Not Like Stamp Collecting 273

68 Where Mathematicians and Biologists Meet 278
Joe Mahaffy

69 Short Courses for Long-Term Learning 282
Phoebe Lostroh

70 Preaching to a Prokaryotic Choir 284
Mark Martin

71 “The Great Plate Count Anomaly” That is No More 288
Gemma Reguera

Talmudic Question #73 291

List of Contributors to Small Things Considered 292

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Moselio Schaechter
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