Monday, December 14, 2009

Of Antibiotics and Myths

You go to a doctor with fever. He recommends a blood test and then scribbles out a almost-undecipherable prescription of an antibiotic course.
But wait, have you ever thought what these antibodies are?
I certainly didn't.
Not until I came across this in the September 2009 issue (Yeah! I know. I am running late) of Scientific American India: "Most medically important antibiotics come from soil bacteria. Conventional wisdom holds that dirt microbes evolved these compounds as lethal weapons in the fierce battle waged beneath out feet for food and territory."
This Special Issue of the Scientific American is one of the best in recent years. It covers the origins of as diverse a topic as The Mind to Ball Bearings to Scotch Tape to Computing. In other words, a treasure trove for those who like their information in small packages.
I think it is possible to order back issues. Try your luck here and see if they still have a copy for you.
Before I leave you another snippet: "A popular factoid claims that water running down a drain turns in one direction in the Southern Hemisphere and the opposite in the Northern Hemisphere. The idea is a myth: although the Coriolis force is strong enough to direct the winds of hurricanes when acting over hundreds of miles for days, it is far too weak to stir a small bowl of water in the scant seconds the water takes to run down the drain." And I have been teaching my sons all the wrong things.

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