By Mark M Green
The Kepler Space Telescope has added a new planet with life supporting temperatures to the two thousand three hundred and twenty-five planets already known. The new one is 2.4 times the size of earth and only 600 light years away from earth. Not likely a neighbor we’ll be in touch with anytime soon but if that happens the human equivalents would have a big athletic advantage to those of us—sort of like the superman story whose powers derived from the planet Krypton having much stronger gravity than earth.
We’ve all heard of Spandex, with its descriptor: “hug your body elasticity” an apt term for the ability of this polymer to greatly stretch and return to its original shape. Now it turns out that this bungee-cord type characteristic is encountered in the mouths of baleen whales such as blue, fin and humpback, which troll the oceans with mouths wide open to scoop up food in pray laden water. As expressed in a May 2015 issue of Science: “The nerves unfold until the collagen stiffens, preventing overelongation, and the elastin snaps the nerves to their previous shape,” just like Spandex does, a synthetic polymer.
In the car today, disgust with listening to right wing radio (as I call certain shows) led me back to NPR where I heard of an experiment leaving no doubt that fish feel pain and supporting my millennial daughter’s fish activism—she won’t eat fish. Biologists put fish into a two-part tank. One half is very attractive with places to hide and plenty to eat. The other half is sparse. As expected the fish spent most of their time in the lush half. Now some of the fish were exposed to a short-lived pain while others to a long-lived pain. When a pain-relieving chemical was added to the sparse part of the tank, only the fish subjected to the long-lived pain abandoned their lush surroundings and went to that part of the tank. The NPR show then went on to describe the likely highly painful methods used in catching and harvesting fish.
Anyone needing antibiotics for a bacterial infection has to be concerned about increasing resistance and even immunity to antibiotics by disease causing bacteria. This issue was addressed nine years ago in this column: http://blogs.poly.edu/markgreen/2014/12/14/science-from-away-%E2%80%93-we-may-be-losing-the-war-against-disease-causing-bacteria/
At that time there were already strong arguments against unnecessary use of antibiotics on farm animals. In the June 5, 2015 issue of Science there is an article entitled: “Antibiotics crisis in China” written by Chinese scientists working at the “Institute of Disease Control and Prevention,” in Beijing. The article points out that excessive use of antibiotics in farm animals in China leads to antibiotic detection in many kinds of food including vegetables. The latter arises from antibiotic laden manure used as fertilizer. According to the authors, The Shanghai Food and Drug Administration found 7.7% of aquatic products were unacceptable for human consumption because of antibiotic contamination. Another study showed that 47% of raw milk from 10 provinces in China tested positive for antibiotics. The authors report that up to 87,000 tons (sic) of antibiotics appear in animal waste from misuse of antibiotics in farm animals. Adding to the problem is that a manufacturer of antibiotics has been found to secretly been disposing of antibiotic waste in nearby waterways leading to nearby rivers having up to 10,000 times the antibiotic concentration of other rivers. The article ends with the statement: “…eliminate the use of antibiotics in animal feed.” This is good advice for countries outside of China. For example in the December 21, 2015 issue of Chemical and Engineering News, there is an article entitled: “Antibiotic Use in Farm Animals Rises.” Here we learn that use of antibiotics in poultry and livestock in the United States increased by 22% from 2009 to 2014 as reported by the Food and Drug Administration. In countries with emerging economies unnecessary antibiotic use in animals is expected to double between 2010 and 2030.
We may before too long reach a state in which antibiotics may not be available for control of many human diseases: http://blogs.poly.edu/markgreen/2007/12/12/resistance-to-antibiotics-part-2/