The Loom

i-40e34f2538731a6015610b29b8387aa1-Microcosm cover 150.jpgWell, we’re down now to seven weeks till Microcosm hits the book stores. Here and elsewhere I’m going to discuss some of the fascinating things I discovered about E. coli–and life in general–while working on the book. For instance, I came to have a grudging respect for the vicious strain of E. coli known as O157:H7, which has caused outbreaks in recent years in contaminated foods. The weaponry it uses to attack and subvert our cells is quite impressive. But my respect went up a notch more when scientists recently reported how E. coli O157:H7 has been continuing to evolve into an even nastier bug. Over at Slate today, I explain why there’s a silver lining in this microbial cloud–it means we should be a bit skeptical that anyone is going to engineer a killer bug from scratch any time soon.


  1. #1 JohnX
    March 20, 2008


    Fascinating. But (not being in science any longer and never have been in this field), it raises a question, and perhaps I am displaying my total ignorance. Do we know exactly why E. coli 0157:H7 is harmless to bovines and other mammals and so devastating to humans?

  2. #2 Austen
    March 21, 2008

    Hot Karl,

    Your book sounds like the lamest thing I could ever read in my entire life. O157:H7 gets me about as scared as your publisher should be for how few books you’re going to sell. Stick to interesting things like Wasp that infect ant brains, or just get a science tattoo on your forehead. From what I’ve read it would be a hell of a lot more interesting.

  3. #3 Steve Fife-Adams
    March 23, 2008

    I thought it was great that when I went to read your (very good and eminently reasonable) Slate article, right in the middle of it there was a very unappetizing (at least in the present context) picture of a meat patty–it was an ad for breakfast at Quality hotels. I’m guessing they weren’t expecting their ad to show up right in the middle of an article on E. coli food poisoning.

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