Prokaryotic Psychoactives?

 

Streptomyces/Actinomyces are a species of bacteria commonly found in soil. Being metabolically diverse they are able to utilize many different types of compounds and are thus vitally important for the ecology of soil, and indeed, much of the characteristic earthy smell of healthy soils arises from chemicals emitted by this species. Beyond this, these bacteria  are the largest group of antibiotic producing bacteria in the microbial world, producing the majority of antibiotics used in human medicine, and with some of their compounds also  giving rise to cancer therapies. Despite this, the number of new antimicrobial compounds reported to have been isolated from this group has declined in recent years and is predicted to fall to zero in the next 1-2 decades. The Streptomyces, as a group, are predicted to be capable of producing at least 100,000 antibiotics, and only a minute fraction of this therapeutic diversity has been unearthed so far. The reduction in reports describing new antibiotics arising from these bacteria is due then to a decline in screening efforts rather than due an exhaustion of their compounds.

These are a collection of Streptomyces/Actinomyces strains that I foraged from Old Down Wood (a local woodland in Hampshire) in order to identify novel antimicrobial compounds.

One of the other remarkable properties of these bacteria is their potent and effecting smell. They smell divine, and each one slightly different, but all distinctively of the earth and of forests. In the laboratory, each inhalation gives me an incredible and almost visceral sense of wellbeing and connection to the natural world. It’s almost a psychoactive experience, and very addictive, and I have a very strong sense that my mood is being manipulated by these apparently simple lifeforms, for the better, and I am content with this.

St9St8St7St6St5St4St3St2St1

 

 

Die Urpflanze: speculations on the origin of plants

 

Shortly before Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published Die Metamorphose der Pflanzen in 1790, he was exploring the concept of the Urpflanze, which he speculated was an archetypal prototypical plant, that contained within it, all the plants of the past, present and future. Whilst there is no reference to this speculative Ur-Plant in his book, it is described (as below) in his letters to Charlotte von Stein which were sent by Goethe during his stay in Palermo, Italy.

“Seeing such a variety of new and renewed forms, my old fancy suddenly came back to mind: among this multitude might I not discover the Primal Plant (Urpflanze)?”

If we extend Goethe’s concept of the primordial botanical entity, to our current understanding of evolution and contemporary science, then a type of microbiological life, the Cyanobacteria,  seem close to what he initially envisaged in many respects. In this context, the process of photosynthesis evolved in this group of bacteria, as did the ability to make the important plant structural polysaccharide cellulose. Indeed, the chloroplast, the organelle within plant cells which carries out photosynthesis, actually derives from a process called endosymbiosis, where in the distant biological past, a cyanobacterium would have gained access to the cytoplasm of a primordial plant cell, and conferred upon instantly, the ability to make energy and assimilate carbon from sunlight and carbon dioxide. In a sense, this life form would contain, the latent instructions for the rich diversity of plant life that we see today, and can easily be imagined as Die Urpflanze.

The works here explore Goethe’s imagined Urpflanze and show the growth forms of various cyanobacteria when grown autotrophically  in sunlight which allows the bacteria  to autogenically generate complex, multicellular and prototypical plant forms  on sold agar surfaces.

Cyano9Cyan1Cyan3Cyan6Cyan5Cyan4Cyan7Cyano8

 

Invisible Worlds

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 29.73 second exposure.

Invisible World. 29.73 second exposure, 100x magnification

I was in my garden today. I could hear a Song Thrush and Blackbird singing close by. A handful of House Martins flew overhead, and scores of bees and insects buzzed backwards and forwards. Life seemed abundant.

I’ve developed a novel process that rather than recording micro-videos in real-time, records instead the paths taken by microscopic creatures under the microscope. The images generated, result from the accumulation of the activity tracks of these usually invisible life forms and reveal the hugely complicated dynamic of their manifold activities and interactions. The process generates images that are in some sense similar to those of radioactive decay, or atomic particle collisions, as they are seen using cloud chambers.  The process is transformative, in that it converts the mundane and disregarded, into something remarkable, not by changing it, but by revealing another level of reality that is usually withheld from us. Each sample generates a unique signature of accumulated biological wavelengths and frequencies.

As all of the macroscopic activity above was taking place , I used this process to exam a small bucket of of collected rainwater for normally unseen and overlooked  microbial activity. The bucket is below:

image[3]

Macroscopic View

image[6]

The unpromising bucket of rainwater

The process revealed an invisible world whose activity dwarfed that of the macroscopic life around it. All of the activity below,  was happening in a minute slice of collected rainwater just a few microns in diameter.

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 29.73 second exposure.

29.73 second exposure, 100x magnification

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 45.76 second exposure.

45.76 second exposure, 100x magnification

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 79.29 second exposure.

79.29 second exposure, 100x magnification

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 129.47 second exposure.

129.47 second exposure. 400x magnification

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 61.56 second exposure.

61.56 second exposure, 400x magnification

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 81.30 second exposure.

81.30 second exposure, 400x magnification

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 52.75 second exposure.

52.75 second exposure, 400x magnification

Purpose versus Flow

 

I’ve developed a novel process that rather than recording micro-videos in real-time, records instead the paths taken by microscopic creatures under the microscope. The images generated, result from the accumulation of the activity tracks of these usually invisible life forms and reveal the hugely complicated dynamic of their manifold activities and interactions. The process generates images that are in some sense similar to those of radioactive decay, or atomic particle collisions, as they are seen using cloud chambers. The images here are generated by the microorganisms from a number of watery environments in my own garden and were made in my kitchen using an iPhone and portable field microscope. They could also be made anywhere.

The process is transformative, in that it converts the mundane and disregarded, into something remarkable, not by changing it, but by revealing another level of reality that is usually withheld from us. Each sample generates a unique signature of accumulated biological wavelengths and frequencies.

Here the process has been used to compare the  movement of non-motile microbes that just move with the physical flow,  and microbes that move with  actual purpose.

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 70.14 second exposure.

Purpose: 70.14 second exposure.

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 39.74 second exposure.

Purpose: 39.74 second exposure.

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 168.97 second exposure.

Flow: 168.97 second exposure.

 

 

[Micro]faunas: microbial frequencies and wavelengths revealed

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 58.75 second exposure.

Tracks: 58.75 second exposure.

I’ve developed a novel process that rather than recording micro-videos in real-time, records instead the paths taken by microscopic creatures under the microscope. The images generated, result from the accumulation of the activity tracks of these usually invisible life forms and reveal the hugely complicated dynamic of their manifold activities and interactions. The process generates images that are in some sense similar to those of radioactive decay, or atomic particle collisions, as they are seen using cloud chambers. The images here are generated by the microorganisms from a number of watery environments in my own garden and were made in my kitchen using an iPhone and portable field microscope. They could also be made anywhere.

The process is transformative, in that it converts the mundane and disregarded, into something remarkable, not by changing it, but by revealing another level of reality that is usually withheld from us. Each sample generates a unique signature of accumulated biological wavelengths and frequencies.

image[3]

Macroscopic View

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 58.75 second exposure.

Tracks: 58.75 second exposure.

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 73.39 second exposure.

Tracks: 73.39 second exposure.

Taken with NightCap Pro. Light Trails mode, 97.69 second exposure.

Tracks: 97.69 second exposure.