Things I Found While Looking For Something Else – Part V
by J.D. Neeson, President
There was a snippet in “The Week” talking about China’s recently announced plan to move 100 million more farmers into the cities over the next six years. Not only is this a massive number of people to move in only six years (one-third of the U.S. population), but there are questions on whether the cities have the infrastructure to accept these farmers turned city dwellers and if the government can invest heavily and quickly enough to reduce the disruption. At present there are already approximately 100 million former farmers that have moved to the cities, but under China’s citizen registration rules, these rural transplants are not officially recognized as being there in the first place so they are unable to access city services, such as health care, education, or housing. It is unclear how the rules are going to be changed to allow recognition of the first wave of illegal former farmers, and how to handle the second wave of government sponsored rural folks. Approximately 300 million of China’s 1.4 billion people are involved with manufacturing (23 percent of the population) while the United States has about 11 million manufacturing workers (about 3.5 percent of the population). The total manufacturing output between the two countries is about the same. Interestingly enough, about 300 million of China’s population is involved in agricultural production (the same 23 percent of the population), while the United States has about 750,000 (about .25 percent of the population) people involved in agriculture. China’s total output is massive at about $830 billion while the U.S.’s agricultural output is around $379 billion. However, the United States exports approximately $99.1 billion of agricultural products to the world, while China exports about $59.1 billion. So even though China grows more than twice the amount of goods, almost all goes to feed its own people. An article in the “News Daily” described how archaeologists digging at Luxor, Egypt, have unearthed a tomb built for a warehouse owner. The 3,000-year-old tomb had descriptions proclaiming the entombed was the “chief maker of beer for gods of the dead.” The Egyptians do seem to take job specialization to heart.
The Human Biome
Each year, a magazine called “Science News” picks a story of the year. In 2013, the story dealt with the human microbiome, a term that was new to me. Firmly in the-way-too-uncomfortable-to-think-about-category, the article described how only 10 percent of cells of a human being are actually human cells. The remaining percentage is composed of bacteria that reside inside or outside the body. Most times these bacteria have a nice symbiotic relationship with their host (us), but when the good and bad bacteria become unbalanced, the host (us) becomes sick. What I thought interesting, after my skin stopped crawling, was the comment that every individual, even identical twins and lab-bred mice, have his or her own unique mix of bacteria. I wonder if this means that doctors should take this person-specific mix into account when prescribing drugs?
Unity College, a small liberal arts college of about 600 students on a very pretty campus in Unity, Maine, has an emphasis on environmental and conservation studies. It is also the hot bed of research on Tardigrades. Tardigrades are one of the smallest known animals (two-tenths of a millimeter) and were first discovered in North America by W.R. Cross (Cross was a priest in 1873 on the even smaller Maine town of New Gloucester). Tardigrades were ignored and forgotten for decades until the college and Professor Emma Creaser, inspired by a paper written by a summer visitor named Harry Meyer, rediscovered them and made them cool again. Unity has become known for its work on these little creatures that are also called water bears or moss piglets. These little creatures are considered animals because they move, eat plants and animals (very small animals, mind you), have a brain and a nervous system, and can reproduce with others or on their own. What makes them especially interesting is that they are incredibly durable. In 2007, they were the first animals to survive in outer space and they have the ability to go into cryptobiosis (similar to hibernation) and survive without food, water, or oxygen for ten years! A single drop of water revives them. Tardigrades can survive in temperatures ranging from 301 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 457 degrees, and they laugh at irradiation, extreme pressure, and lack of food and water. They are found everywhere on every continent and there are at least 1,000 different species. And no one can explain exactly how they can do what they do.
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April 11, 2014 / JD Neeson / 1
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Margaret Graham Neeeson
Margaret Graham Neeson
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