Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Exploring Your Bodily Fauna

Ever since I was young, the idea of discovering a new species has, for me, been steeped in age-of-steam mysticism. I'd arrive on a ship in some inadequately explored country in some inadequately explored continent, its air fresh with the scent of otherness. I'd awake in my state cabin, have the boy shave me before being led to the club. My baggage, in trunks of course, would follow, perched precariously on the back of a local. I would pay him extravagantly later, all the while knowing that the only thanks he truly needed was the reassuring colonial presence of my three-piece-suited self. Later in the club, slumped into a green leather chair beneath the revolving ceiling fans, I would sit and avoid discussing the business of a visiting Swiss banker. We would, instead, discuss the "Africa Situation." Then the door would burst open and a well dressed man would stagger in, clutching his stomach. "Doctor James?" he would say, his voice weak and quavering, "There's something you need to see," he would continue before keeling over. He would be dead, and thus would begin my journey of biological discovery. In the jungle. Or, as the locals call it, Green Hell!
These days, it's easier, and only slightly less romantic. All you need is a powerful microscope, many years of highly specialised biological training, and a scraping from someone's forearm. Researchers at the New York Medical School have discovered more than 200 different types of bacteria in samples from the forearms of volunteers, 8% of which were previously undescribed by science. Human skin, according to the report, is a "virtual zoo" of bacteria. Even better is that everyone's zoo is different, so your personal bacterial retinue is as unique as you are. Think about that next time you take a shower. My advice is don't do it; explain away your eye-watering odour with these words: I have devoted myself to the noble pursuit of knowledge.
Source: BBC

1 comment:

Ash Sere said...

'Green Hell'! Now where have I heard that before? :-D