1147: "Evolving"

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1147: "Evolving"

Postby rhomboidal » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:09 am UTC

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Title Text: Biologists play reverse Pokémon, trying to avoid putting any one team member on the front lines long enough for the experience to cause evolution.

In your face, Intelligent Designers!

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby slimjim8094 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:39 am UTC

Should have held 'B'

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby noodle » Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:07 am UTC

But its not "macro-evolution"

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby YttriumOx » Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:31 am UTC

A large proportion of an entire generation or two think "oh, evolution is something that happens in an individual, in direct response to an environmental stimulus".
I think Pokemon is at least slightly to blame for this. And even though this comic is funny (or at least I find it so), I still can't help but twitch a bit at the implication than an individual SA bacterium is evolving in to MRSA; where of course the reality is that it was always that way as long as it's been a bacterium (it just happens that all of the non resistant bacteria die and so don't multiply and we only end up with copies of this and other resistant ones).
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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby lingomaniac88 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:42 am UTC

You had just better hope that the methicillin-resistant strains have lousy IVs.
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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby sehkzychic » Fri Dec 14, 2012 7:08 am UTC

MRSA comix? Not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, an xkcd comic that relates to biology is a welcome change, but on the other hand, "biology is like pokemon....'cuz there's evolution!" isn't that flattering. It feels like a lot of the physical science humor stems from true science, but lately the biology-humor is just poking fun at biologists or (as in this case) getting the biology wrong just for the sake of the joke. I love xkcd for being funny and getting the science *right*. Please, Randall, don't compromise on the science, even if it is "just" biology.

I mean, it would be a real shame if when I finish breeding my giant cuttlefish-and-kraken navy (and a raptor cavalry division) they *somehow* forgot not to attack the web cartoonists. Just saying...it would be a shame.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby musashi1600 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 7:10 am UTC

slimjim8094 wrote:Should have held 'B'


Should've used a species that needs an evolution stone or a trade to evolve; no need to press B there.
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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby Djehutynakht » Fri Dec 14, 2012 8:33 am UTC

I was just studying this a few weeks ago so this is funny to me.

Oh MRSA...

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Fri Dec 14, 2012 9:17 am UTC

YttriumOx wrote:A large proportion of an entire generation or two think "oh, evolution is something that happens in an individual, in direct response to an environmental stimulus".
I think Pokemon is at least slightly to blame for this. And even though this comic is funny (or at least I find it so), I still can't help but twitch a bit at the implication than an individual SA bacterium is evolving in to MRSA; where of course the reality is that it was always that way as long as it's been a bacterium (it just happens that all of the non resistant bacteria die and so don't multiply and we only end up with copies of this and other resistant ones).


Or it's actually transformation instead of evolution.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby mr-mitch » Fri Dec 14, 2012 9:21 am UTC

musashi1600 wrote:
slimjim8094 wrote:Should have held 'B'


Should've used a species that needs an evolution stone or a trade to evolve; no need to press B there.


You just need to let it hold an everstone.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby chalkie » Fri Dec 14, 2012 9:53 am UTC

Isn't the observation here that we grossly overuse antibiotics? Particularly in the American (and probably elsewhere) livestock industry where they are routinely used as a growth promoter. I wonder how that works - Maybe if the animal stays healthy most of the time it keeps eating and getting fatter?

That overuse has violated the responsibility of "trying to avoid putting any one team member on the front lines long enough for the experience to cause evolution" (the team members being the antibiotics).

Mind you, I never really "got" the whole pokemon thing. Even my kids are too cynical to bother with them for any appreciable amount of time. I say cynical, perhaps I mean lazy.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby cantab314 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:02 am UTC

musashi1600 wrote:Should've used a species that needs an evolution stone or a trade to evolve; no need to press B there.
We did. S. Aureus needed the Antibiotic used on it to evolve, and we went and did that.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby Icalasari » Fri Dec 14, 2012 11:04 am UTC

I finally get a GOOMHR moment! Just caught a Zebstrika and am trying to evolve this god damned Tranquill

And yeah, don't see how this is making fun of biology. Has to be poking fun at how overused antibiotics are

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby TimXCampbell » Fri Dec 14, 2012 11:27 am UTC

This comic makes me wonder about something that maybe somebody here can explain.

A certain mold creates penicillin, right? Okay. Why?

I'm guessing it's a defense against certain micro-organisms which want to nom-nom on the mold, and the mold evolves a counter-chemical. Is that what's going on?

If it IS, then is it practical to create an environment wherein billions of bits of mold are subjected to slightly higher levels of radiation, in the hopes that they'll mutate something useful? I guess harvesting and testing each generation would be a chore, but it's not as if we're dealing with bales of hay; these are tiny little smears. If we can create and test millions of microchips, would it be impossible to build an evolution machine?

I honestly have no idea what I'm talking about but I'm inviting somebody to educate me.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby EpicanicusStrikes » Fri Dec 14, 2012 12:06 pm UTC

So would ST8:USA300 be a shiny MRSA?

What's the latest on PVL toxins, by the way? I've heard recent studies show that they may not actually be responsible for necrotizing fasciitis as originally thought.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby gaurwraith » Fri Dec 14, 2012 12:18 pm UTC

TimXCampbell wrote:This comic makes me wonder about something that maybe somebody here can explain.

A certain mold creates penicillin, right? Okay. Why?

I'm guessing it's a defense against certain micro-organisms which want to nom-nom on the mold, and the mold evolves a counter-chemical. Is that what's going on?

If it IS, then is it practical to create an environment wherein billions of bits of mold are subjected to slightly higher levels of radiation, in the hopes that they'll mutate something useful? I guess harvesting and testing each generation would be a chore, but it's not as if we're dealing with bales of hay; these are tiny little smears. If we can create and test millions of microchips, would it be impossible to build an evolution machine?

I honestly have no idea what I'm talking about but I'm inviting somebody to educate me.


I have no idea neither, but I think the point is that those little living beings reproduce at a really fast speed, so generations and generations follow in a very short time, no need "radiation", evolution goes very fast on them...

Also, if you have been following the MOOC EdX C6.00x introduction to Computer Science, last problem set was about simulation of virus evolution in a patient, and virus getting resistances with random chances and all... I related the comic to that...
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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby Mirkwood » Fri Dec 14, 2012 12:22 pm UTC

TimXCampbell wrote:This comic makes me wonder about something that maybe somebody here can explain.

A certain mold creates penicillin, right? Okay. Why?

I'm guessing it's a defense against certain micro-organisms which want to nom-nom on the mold, and the mold evolves a counter-chemical. Is that what's going on?

If it IS, then is it practical to create an environment wherein billions of bits of mold are subjected to slightly higher levels of radiation, in the hopes that they'll mutate something useful? I guess harvesting and testing each generation would be a chore, but it's not as if we're dealing with bales of hay; these are tiny little smears. If we can create and test millions of microchips, would it be impossible to build an evolution machine?

I honestly have no idea what I'm talking about but I'm inviting somebody to educate me.


Basically, bio-engineering consists of seeing an organism do something kick-ass, and then trying to get that to work for us. Messing with genes, crossbreeding, etc. are techniques we are fairly skilled with today, the trick is finding new cool stuff in nature and learning how it works. Your idea for an "evolution machine" seems theoretically possible, but the problem is that in a machine environment it's hard to really see what the organism can do. Usually, discovering this kind of thing takes a fortuitous accident, or eating the organism.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby Crosshair » Fri Dec 14, 2012 12:52 pm UTC

cantab314 wrote:
musashi1600 wrote:Should've used a species that needs an evolution stone or a trade to evolve; no need to press B there.
We did. S. Aureus needed the Antibiotic used on it to evolve, and we went and did that.

But when you remove the Meticillin for long enough, the resistant strain will go extinct due to the fitness cost imposed by the broken cellular machinery that gives it resistance.

So you're gonna have to finish the game by holding down the B button for the next 6 hours. :lol:

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby jgh » Fri Dec 14, 2012 12:53 pm UTC

But evilootion is a commie plot, MRSA doesn't exist, H1N1 is a conspiracy, Spanish Flu was propaganda, they took uur jobs!

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby Klear » Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:04 pm UTC

I hereby place a polite request of explanation of everything Pokemon that is related to today's comic. I never played any of the games and have no idea how they work.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby cellocgw » Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:27 pm UTC

Klear wrote:I hereby place a polite request of explanation of everything Pokemon that is related to today's comic. I never played any of the games and have no idea how they work.

I think you need to write "F#@^%-ing Pokemons: how do they work?"

And, yeah, they don't evolve, they undergo metamorphosis. So all Pokemons must have evolved from butterflies :mrgreen:
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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby mathmannix » Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:28 pm UTC

Flucloxacillin I CHOOSE YOU!
I hear velociraptor tastes like chicken.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby mountainpenguin » Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:15 pm UTC

TimXCampbell wrote:This comic makes me wonder about something that maybe somebody here can explain.

A certain mold creates penicillin, right? Okay. Why?

I'm guessing it's a defense against certain micro-organisms which want to nom-nom on the mold, and the mold evolves a counter-chemical. Is that what's going on?

If it IS, then is it practical to create an environment wherein billions of bits of mold are subjected to slightly higher levels of radiation, in the hopes that they'll mutate something useful? I guess harvesting and testing each generation would be a chore, but it's not as if we're dealing with bales of hay; these are tiny little smears. If we can create and test millions of microchips, would it be impossible to build an evolution machine?

I honestly have no idea what I'm talking about but I'm inviting somebody to educate me.


This is a process that has already been developed, though as far as I know, not for the purpose of generating new antibiotics.
See "directed evolution".

Basically:
Alter genetic information at an artificially higher rate than normal rate, but randomly (e.g. as you say by irradiating a plate of your chosen 'mold')
Screen individual molds, each of which has suffered random mutations in its genetic information
Select promising mutants, and repeat the process a few thousand times

Microchips would probably not be required for this sort of thing, you could do it with simple plating techniques.
E.g. plate bacteria evenly on LB-agar, add a spot of your 'mold' mutant in the centre of the plate, grow overnight
If the mutant is producing an effective antibiotic, bacteria will not grow in a ring around where you added your spot.

Perhaps a microchip method and a robot could be used to make this even faster, allowing repeating the process millions of times

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby kapitol » Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:53 pm UTC

Klear wrote:I hereby place a polite request of explanation of everything Pokemon that is related to today's comic. I never played any of the games and have no idea how they work.


Pokemon is a video game that was first released on the Nintendo handheld console Gameboy. The basic gist of it is you own these fictional creatures called Pokemon and you use them to fight each other. Winning these battles yielded experience points for all the Pokemon you used to fight in each battle. After accumulating a certain amount of experience points, you're Pokemon will "level up". Leveling up increases stats, and your Pokemon learn new moves which are used in battle. Leveling up can also trigger an "evolution" if your Pokemon is at a specific level, changing the sprite of the pokemon, increasing stats, as well as unlocking new move-sets.. (Sometimes, specific items must be used to trigger the evolution). During the evolution animation, the user can press B to cancel the evolution. The reason the level at which you learned certain moves (and stat growths? not sure on this one) are different for the Pokemon at different stages of the evolution. For example, Charmander evolves into Charmeleon at level 16. However, Charmander learns Flamethrower at level 38, whilst Charmeleon learns the same move at level 42.

Later generations of the game introduced many new mechanics. The mechanics described are above pertain to the first and original game. The everstone item that was mentioned is a item that when held by your Pokemon, prevents it from evolving (Since every level after the trigger level will start an evolution, and evolution is irreversible; it is an item of convenience.)

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby Setting_Sun » Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:56 pm UTC

TimXCampbell wrote:This comic makes me wonder about something that maybe somebody here can explain.

A certain mold creates penicillin, right? Okay. Why?

I'm guessing it's a defense against certain micro-organisms which want to nom-nom on the mold, and the mold evolves a counter-chemical. Is that what's going on?

If it IS, then is it practical to create an environment wherein billions of bits of mold are subjected to slightly higher levels of radiation, in the hopes that they'll mutate something useful? I guess harvesting and testing each generation would be a chore, but it's not as if we're dealing with bales of hay; these are tiny little smears. If we can create and test millions of microchips, would it be impossible to build an evolution machine?

I honestly have no idea what I'm talking about but I'm inviting somebody to educate me.


Yeah that can be it; there's also an element of resource competition. Even though making the antibiotic comes at a cost, that cost is less than having all of your resources stolen by a rapidly proliferating bacterium. Also, doing it to them before they do it to you.

Your idea makes sense, but there'd be time and effort involved in determining what code (if anything) mutated and what product it was then coding for. In the case of antibiotics it'd be easier to start with one that works and generate ones with a similar structure and then see if they're more effective. Or culture the microorganism (either with or without mutation treatment) with another one you want to eradicate.

I think that's what you're getting at, but you'd only be answering that specific question, you couldn't easily know whether it had made some random useful molecule. That would also be impossible through (a single round of) radiation.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby Setting_Sun » Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:07 pm UTC

Klear wrote:I hereby place a polite request of explanation of everything Pokemon that is related to today's comic. I never played any of the games and have no idea how they work.


You basically play as an animal slaver trainer who solicits monkey knife fights matches between other owners to become the most ruthless best of all. The main fun of it is in collecting all 150 151 301 493 649 of them, which you do with the Pokemon you've already got by savaging and imprisoning defeating and capturing them. Your pokemon gain experience and can beat ever better competitors. Essentially it's a stamp collecting rpg. I love it though, get your hands on Red.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby Klear » Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:10 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:And, yeah, they don't evolve, they undergo metamorphosis. So all Pokemons must have evolved from butterflies :mrgreen:


One morning, as Bulbasaur was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a Ivysaur.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby JoeyJo0 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:35 pm UTC

mathmannix wrote:Flucloxacillin I CHOOSE YOU!


I've had that stuff before.

I'd prefer to call it 'diarrhea liquid'.
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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby Moose Anus » Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:46 pm UTC

TimXCampbell wrote:A certain mold creates penicillin, right? Okay. Why?
I'm no biologist, but I think fungus and bacteria have been in a constant arms race pretty much since they both existed. Mold, as a fungus, is pretty good at getting rid of bacteria because it's yummy. This interplay is also used in making pickles, and I think it has something to do with vaginas. I prefer to think of it as the pickle vagina war.
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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby TimXCampbell » Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:50 pm UTC

Mirkwood wrote:Your idea for an "evolution machine" seems theoretically possible, but the problem is that in a machine environment it's hard to really see what the organism can do.

I think a machine could detect whether or not a mutated mold can slay MRSA or other superbugs. Incubate each array of 1000 tiny samples for a week then point a digital camera at it. Wherever the agar is clear it's evidence that the superbug was slain.

The technique is so obvious that it has almost certainly been patented already. Too bad the law doesn't prevent people patenting really obvious things.

Klear wrote:[Please explain how Pokémon] ... is related to today's comic. I never played any of the games and have no idea how they work.

When a Pokémon ("Pocket Monster") has won a certain number of battles (with a certain total amount of difficulty), it “levels up” in a special way. This is indicated by a distinctive tune accompanied by an animation. The game says that your Pokémon is evolving. As others have noted, that's not evolution, that's metamorphosis. This is why Pokémon is not taught in college.

mathmannix wrote:Flucloxacillin — I CHOOSE YOU!

This cracked me up!

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby SlyReaper » Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:56 pm UTC

JoeyJo0 wrote:
mathmannix wrote:Flucloxacillin I CHOOSE YOU!


I've had that stuff before.

I'd prefer to call it 'diarrhea liquid'.

I've had that stuff before too. The doctor prescribed it for my diabetes.

I wish I was joking.
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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby jbrecken » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:00 pm UTC

I initially read the name of that bacterium as "Staphylococcus Purelis," and wondered if it had somehow mutated to thrive on sanitizer.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby Endovior » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:16 pm UTC

mathmannix wrote:Flucloxacillin I CHOOSE YOU!
Wikipedia wrote:It is ineffective against MRSA.


It's not very effective...

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby JoeyJo0 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:28 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:
JoeyJo0 wrote:
mathmannix wrote:Flucloxacillin I CHOOSE YOU!


I've had that stuff before.

I'd prefer to call it 'diarrhea liquid'.

I've had that stuff before too. The doctor prescribed it for my diabetes.

I wish I was joking.


At least I got it prescribed for S. Aureus. What the hell? For Diabetes?
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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby SlyReaper » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:35 pm UTC

JoeyJo0 wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:
JoeyJo0 wrote:
mathmannix wrote:Flucloxacillin I CHOOSE YOU!


I've had that stuff before.

I'd prefer to call it 'diarrhea liquid'.

I've had that stuff before too. The doctor prescribed it for my diabetes.

I wish I was joking.


At least I got it prescribed for S. Aureus. What the hell? For Diabetes?

In fairness, I hadn't been diagnosed yet. But in retrospect, the symptoms were classic diabetes. The doctor assumed it was some kind of infection -> give the man some antibiotics!

I ended up getting much much worse, as you can imagine.
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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby Claren » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:07 pm UTC

TimXCampbell wrote:This comic makes me wonder about something that maybe somebody here can explain.

A certain mold creates penicillin, right? Okay. Why?

I'm guessing it's a defense against certain micro-organisms which want to nom-nom on the mold, and the mold evolves a counter-chemical. Is that what's going on?


Fungi and bacteria are more often competitors for the same food and space than direct consumers (predators) of each other. Think of it as a Lebensraum type of deal. If the mold can kill off the bacteria, it's got less competition for the same finite resources. The classic example is over-using Listerine, and getting thrush. Or, alternately, douching every day, and getting a killer yeast infection.

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:18 pm UTC

Infectious diseases, gotta catch me all!

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby screen317 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:24 pm UTC

YttriumOx wrote:And even though this comic is funny (or at least I find it so), I still can't help but twitch a bit at the implication than an individual SA bacterium is evolving in to MRSA; where of course the reality is that it was always that way as long as it's been a bacterium (it just happens that all of the non resistant bacteria die and so don't multiply and we only end up with copies of this and other resistant ones).
Not entirely true, sorry. Mutations are far more common than that. See:
http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpag ... mrsa-28360


In fairness, I hadn't been diagnosed yet. But in retrospect, the symptoms were classic diabetes. The doctor assumed it was some kind of infection -> give the man some antibiotics!

I ended up getting much much worse, as you can imagine.
Who is this idiot doctor?

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby endolith » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:41 pm UTC

YttriumOx wrote:I still can't help but twitch a bit at the implication than an individual SA bacterium is evolving in to MRSA; where of course the reality is that it was always that way as long as it's been a bacterium (it just happens that all of the non resistant bacteria die and so don't multiply and we only end up with copies of this and other resistant ones).


A cell is mutating.

TimXCampbell wrote:If it IS, then is it practical to create an environment wherein billions of bits of mold are subjected to slightly higher levels of radiation, in the hopes that they'll mutate something useful?


You mean like the radiation-eating mold growing in the Chernobyl reactor?

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Re: 1147: "Evolving"

Postby SlyReaper » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:48 pm UTC

screen317 wrote:
In fairness, I hadn't been diagnosed yet. But in retrospect, the symptoms were classic diabetes. The doctor assumed it was some kind of infection -> give the man some antibiotics!

I ended up getting much much worse, as you can imagine.
Who is this idiot doctor?

Some random university doctor whose name I did not care to memorise. I had actually visited that clinic a week earlier with the same symptoms, and was told by another doctor that it was just exam stress and I should just walk it off.

I have Bupa medical insurance these days. I'm done trusting the NHS.
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