Absolutely fascinating exploration of the microbiome of a city.
For those who don't know what the microbiome is, the article defines it with some interesting statistics:
"Typically, every person is home to about a hundred trillion microbial cells bearing five million different genes, totaling about 5 pounds of micro-organisms per person. Indeed, microbes in and on the body outnumber human cells about 10 to one.
“You are a minority party in the democracy of the body,” Dr. Mason said.
"The body’s collection of microbes, called the microbiome, influences health in ways that researchers are only beginning to understand. They may be key to proper digestion, vitamin synthesis and brain function, new research suggests. Changes among the millions of microbes living in the human stomach also may promote obesity, trigger ulcers or affect how well a flu vaccine works."
The article describes a research project to explore signs of this microbiome expressed on surfaces throughout the NYC subways.
My two favorite quotes:
“A city is like an organism,” said IBM Corp. computational biologist Robert Prill, who is among those at the company investigating ways to better collect and analyze these immense new public-health genome databases. “It has a circulating system consisting of the movement of people.”
“We know next to nothing about the ecology of urban environments,” said evolutionary biologist Jonathan Eisen at the University of California at Davis. “How will we know if there is something abnormal if we don’t know what normal is?”