Sunday, June 26, 2011

Science Goes One Step Too Far... AGAIN!

In a frightening story in this month's New Scientist, scientists at the University of Minnesota have given the secret of numbers to common brewer's yeast. Once the sacred domain of humans, sentient robots, and television dogs and horses, now saccharomyces cerevisiae has been added to the counting club.

By centrifuging the yeast cells together on a daily basis, these hippie biologers taught the single-celled organisms to live in snowflake-shaped communes, sharing resources and dividing labor amongst themselves, each according to their abilities. In short, they have given yeast the gift of multicellularity.

As anyone with a less-than-rudimentary understanding of the fundamentals of science will tell you, this is an absolutely terrifying scenario. Now that yeast understands the power of strength in numbers, how long will it be before they begin to exercise their collective bargaining rights? Now that they understand numbers, what if some cells from 2112 California Common get together and decide they want to be 2565 Kölsch instead? Or decide to quit converting glucose to ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide entirely unless they get a daily massage and some malto-dextrin?

The possibilities are chilling. For bottom-fermenting saccharomyces, anyhow. For top-fermenting strains the possibilities are merely cellar temperature.

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