Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our Internal Galaxy

New research about the 10,000 species of microbes that live in our bodies:

Human Microbiome Project

Most of these creatures are harmless or benign, comprising an internal ecosystem we couldn’t live without. Furthermore, each person has a customized population of microbes. In the typical human body, 100 trillion individual nonhuman organisms live. In fact, we harbor more of them than we do human cells. Kind of makes you wonder to what extent the entities we call ourselves really belong to us.

These facts remind me of A WIND IN THE DOOR, sequel to Madeleine L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME. In WIND, Meg and her friends get miniaturized to enter a cell in her seriously ill little brother’s body. There they meet a farandola, an unimaginably tiny organism living inside a mitochondrion in that cell. To this creature and his clan, the cell is a planet, and Charles’s body is a galaxy. Yet the farandolae have intelligence and souls. One of the book’s themes is that value doesn’t depend on size. A child or a farandola is as important as a star.

Or, as Dr. Seuss’s Horton the Elephant would put it, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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