Stories tagged microbiology


art in a petri dish
art in a petri dishCourtesy Eshel Ben-Jacob
Take a close look at the image pictured here. Do you think it's the work of an artist, a scientist, or some other living organism?

The answer is: all of the above.

Eshel Ben-Jacob, an Israeli artist who is also a scientific researcher, created the image in collaboration with tens of billions of microorganisms, a colony of bacteria living in a petri dish. Why did he do it?

He was curious about how bacteria cope with stress in their environment, for example when humans try to eliminate them using antibiotics. One way he found to study the coping strategies of these persistent microbes was by creating stressful petri dish environments and studying how the living organisms respond. The results are beautiful and complex patterns like this one, which also tell a story about how living organisms adapt.

Turns out that bacteria actually cooperate to solve challenges, communicating to exchange genetic information that tells them how to survive as a group. It's a kind of underlying social intelligence, one that can make it difficult for us humans to keep up. In the case of the image here, you can see how the colony branches out in search of nutrients. That's just one of the things these researcher were able to learn more about by studying petri dish patterns.

Eshel Ben-Jacob realized that in addition to loads of interesting scientific data, these colonies make thought provoking artworks, reminding us never to underestimate the adaptive powers of living organisms. He added a bit of color to the patterns and has compiled a series of the resulting images in an online gallery. Take a look, and let me know what you see!

Ben-Jacob's work is also part of a fascinating collection cataloged on the website Microbial Art, which features artworks by scientists and artists from around the world who use a wide variety of taxa and techniques. You may not see it hanging in an art museum, but it's one of the most interesting examples of science-art collaborations that I've ever seen.

Vincent Racaniello, a professor of microbiology at Columbia University Medical Center, is blogging about the 2009 H1N1 swine flu. He's answering questions and addressing comments, but he's also posting daily about new developments and basic influenza virology. Fascinating...


What are the major differences in Microbiology and Immunization biology? Just wondering.

It is important to remember that not all microbes make you sick. In fact many are even helpful. Click here for a New York times article that summarizes recent findings or go to the original scientific article in
Genome Research about human skin microbes. Finally you can learn more about gut microbe research at Washington University here.

Why do microbes always get such a bad reputation?

New research published in Science reported bacteria can survive by eating antibiotics as a food source. This finding goes a step further than resistance. For a good summary read a blog on The Scientist website.


I've been chatting with Chris Condayan from the American Society for Microbiology and discovering a bunch of great website about this science of "wee beasties." I had to share some of the fun:

Cartoon critters

Bacillus cereus: Cartoon by Emma Lurie
Bacillus cereus: Cartoon by Emma Lurie

Adopt a Microbe is a goofy blog from Emma Lurie, a microbiology student in perth. A graphic artist, Lurie, draws great cartoons of common microbes and posts them along with fun and simple descriptions. From Bacillus cereus' description:

I love rice!
Rice is one of my favourite places to live, especially if it's been reheated over and over.
You can get food poisoning from me that will give you diarrhoea and vomiting.
I use a special toxin to make you sick.

An unconventional documentary

Ever wonder about the history of microbiology but didn't want to watch a dry film with boring scientists? LEGOs to the rescue. These whimsical animated LEGO mini-figs tell the wild history of microbiology greats like Louis Pasteur.

So now that you're interested, look further into the microscope with these more in-depth resources:
Microbe World - Discover Unseen Life on Earth
Small Things Considered - The Microbe Blog.