Power to the Microbes!

Modern Farmer has an article about the “next green revolution”:

“A lot of materials used in corporate agriculture have the capacity to enhance plant growth and performance, but they suppress soil biology,” he says.

The scorched-earth tactics he’d employed with his pesticides and herbicides, he realized, had worked all too well. The microbial life critical to healthy soils had become collateral damage. Afterwards, in a best-case scenario, Kempf could coax his cantaloupes and other crops to acceptable yields only by practically drowning them in fertilizer. He threw this approach out the window. Instead, by focusing on creating healthy soils, he’d let plants do what plants have evolved to do best when they’re given a fighting chance: grow like crazy.

By focusing on the base biology of his farm–the soil–this farmer, John Kempf, could increase yields and the health of the crops. Essentially, with healthy soil, you can grow hardier, stronger plants. As he determined, wholesale applications of pesticides would lead to temporary successes against pests that attack his plants, and copious amounts of fertilizer could coax the plants into growing larger and better, but once he turned his attention to the biology of the soil that his plants were growing in, the plants grew better than ever before.

Essentially, with healthy microbial life in soil, plants can grow bigger and stronger.

A class of bacteria commonly found in the guts of people—and rodents—appears to keep mice safe from food allergies, a study suggests. The same bacteria are among those reduced by antibiotic use in early childhood. The research fits neatly into an emerging paradigm that helps explain a recent alarming increase in food allergies and other conditions, such as obesity and autoimmune disease, and hints at strategies to reverse the trend.

By focusing on the base biology of humans–the gut–this scientist, Cathryn Nagler, and her research team have found a way to prevent food allergies from developing. With a healthy gut microbiome, your body is better equipped to stay healthy and fight off diseases. While antibiotics kill bacteria that cause diseases, they also kill good bacteria that keep us healthy. This research is another step toward recognizing that people can better control and stabilize their health by cultivating a healthier gut.

Healthy soil leads to strong, healthy plants. Healthy gut leads to strong, healthy humans. Power to the microbes! 

Software, Sharing, and Music

Here’s what was important this week…

Software is everywhere lately. My boyfriend asked me what I thought the next big website would be (after the success of Google, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and I realized it’s just as likely (if not more likely) to be a software application rather than a website. Paul Ford took some time to enshrine some works of software in a “software canon” — Microsoft Office, Photoshop, Pacman, the Unix operating system, and eMacs (which I’d never heard of until this essay came out).

Software has had a noticeable effect on our day to day lives (especially those with smartphones), but it’s also had a huge impact on music and the way it’s created, recorded, and produced. Fact Magazine went through 14 works of software that shaped modern music (electronic music started way earlier than I thought). One of those software applications is Auto-Tune, and the Sounding Out! blog happened to post about the history of Auto-Tune.

 

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(Mental) Health, Poetry, and Media

Here’s what was important this week…

The Super Bowl was this past weekend, as you probably know. With the Olympics starting it’s old news, but one of the big topics in journalism in the lead-up to the event was how football (both the sport and the NFL) handles concussions. Football isn’t the only sport with a concussion problem– hockey and soccer are two other notables, and many more can be assumed (rugby, anyone?). But what makes football different is both its presence in the American consciousness–it’s a truly American sport–and the prominent deaths and deteriorations of former stars. In the LA Review of Books, a devoted football fan reflects on the sport and injury risk, while an essay in The New Inquiry sheds light on the reactions of the NFL. At one point, the essay sardonically quotes a co-chair of the NFL Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee (MTBI):

““Anecdotes do not make scientifically valid evidence,” he stated, thus reducing evidence of CTE in former football players to the status of that story you tell about your cat. “

Both essays draw heavily from the “League of Denial” documentary and book, but they take slightly different perspectives and analyses, and are both worth the read.

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