SCIENCE IN ACTION
By MICHAEL JOHN UGLO
THIS is our 11th lecture and welcome all.
The binary signal of a memory element so-called a bistable known also as a flip-flop is actually taking and driving the world at the moment for the convenience of humanity on planet earth in technology. For miniaturaisation into a 100 diameter of an atom called a micron is the limit that demarcates a possible electron tunnelling and avalanche.
This can cause a stoppage to the working machine known as a module or a resource such as a logic and arithmetic and control unit of a computer.
The hard and smart working men are taken on the challenge to miniaturise further into the world of nano-computing. The areas such as electronics, quantum, DNA, atomic and molecular computing. For one reason it is to pack so much information into a tiny space and at the same time increas the speed of information storage, relay and transmission.
Information converting and translating from common language to machine language comparing the current mode of operation in the logic functions may not deviate much. However, more information can be stored and relayed in a very minimal space and time.
Here we are talking about very tiny things that our physical eyes cannot see but somewhat see their physical work producing results such as watching NRL games played in Australia to be transmitted and relayed to your setting in PNG.
Likewise, you cannot see the microbes but somewhat see them working like the overnight growth of a mushrooms near your home. Microbes are studied in a field called microbiology.
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms. The curiosity of their existence was known many centuries ago considering the growth of molds, decaying matter and milk turning sour through discoveries and work done by pioneering biologists. Such scientists included Louis Pasteur.
Today so many uses have been derived from microbiology, particularly in the fields of medicine, industrial technology, manufacturing, food technology, food preservation and biotechnology.
Microbes are unicellular organisms or single celled organisms that live as a functioning entity or living thing having all the characteristics of life like excretion, respiration, feeding, responding to stimuli, growth and reproduction.
They can live everywhere as in temperatures from very extreme cold conditions like polar regions to temperatures in very extreme hot conditions like deserts. They can live under the water, in the air in the caves and everywhere.
These unicellular organisms whose organelles are membrane-enclosed are seen to be more advanced than those which are not membrane-bound.
Membranes are the semipermeable structures that biochemically control the passage of nutrients and waste materials including the respiratory gasses into and out of the cell. The above two are the descriptions of the structures of the cells that are seen to generally categorise cells into these two divisions.
These are the prokaryotes whose organelles are not membrane-bound and the eukaryotes whose organelles are membrane-bound. Prokaryotes are the simpler of the two cellular structures that include organisms such as bacteria and archaea.
Examples of eukaryotes include protists, fungi, algae and all the rest of the multicellular organisms including all plants and animals.
Current methods in molecular biology such as DNA sequencing can be used to identify different microorganisms based on their structures and morphology. Virologists classify viruses as very complex molecules.
Viruses are seen to be at the cross roads between the living and the non-living world with the fact that they live and replicate only inside living cells. Hence, the viruses cannot live on their own in the external environment like the other microbes.
Unicellular organisms are varied and their studies come in separate fields such as bacteriology, protistology, virology, immunology and parasitology. There is also overlap among these specific studies of the field of microbiology. The applied sciences of microbiology are therefore vast. Hence, a pure research area in microbiology is needed and this is covered in the area called cellular biology.
Microbes are thought to be dangerous because they cause diseases. Only a few induce diseases but most microbes are very helpful and play a huge beneficial role for the maintenance and existence of life. For instance, the rhizobium bacteria, captures the inert nitrogen gas (N2) from the atmosphere during lightening in the form of nitrogen dioxide and converts it to ammonia, then to nitrites and then convert them to nitrates for the plants to take it up as plant nutrients.
These nitrogen compounds play a vital role in building up the proteins that all living things need for their livelihood. At the very starting point and the building block of all the living things such as the microbes, the cells contain the nitrogen at the nucleus of the cells that make up the DNA.
Other areas that microbes contribute are the purification processes whereby organic matter is partially decomposed in anaerobic respiration (in the absence of oxygen) with the actions of the bacteria and fungi.
A foul-smelling product is formed which is incompletely oxidised in the lead up to separating proteins. Further actions of microbes as well as other detritivores contribute to the overall freeing of carbon from carbon compounds from the ecosystems together with the other inorganic elements. This contributes to the nutrient cycles of elements.
This is the basis whereby microorganisms obtain their nourishment whereby carbon is oxidised and is freed into the air in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). In incomplete oxidation and combustion, carbon monoxide is also freed to add to the release of carbon into the air.
Decomposition is the process by which ecosystem respiration takes place. The respiratory gases circulate through the process of decomposition by which the foundation of all organic compounds of all living things being the carbon is released into the atmosphere. Thus, the cycle continues for the ecosystem respiration.
Microorganisms also help in the process of digestion in the gastrointestinal tract of all animals to break up the cellulose of all plant food and the hard lignin in the processes of digestion. Microbes are further used in industrial processes such as in brewing industries with the use of yeasts to ferment sugar to produce ethanol (beer and wine) for consumption.
In chemical industries, the microorganisms are used for refining metals. Impure ores of minerals are fed with bacteria of a genus called Thiobacillus in a process called bacterial leaching whereby the bacteria feed on the oxide layer of the metal ore and leaves only the pure refined metal behind for collection.
Microorganisms are also used as vehicles to transfer DNA to bigger plants and animals. Yeast extracts, for instance, are used to make vitamins enriched with vegetable oil as vegemite. Marmite is also yeast extract made as a byproduct from beer brewing. In medicine, antibiotics are produced from fungi as well as soil bacteria to work against any bacterial infection.
Recent developments in microbial applications in biotechnology are so vast.For instance, there are some non-pathogenic bacteria from the class named clostridia which can produce therapeutic protein to eat away tumoral growth in the treatment of cancer. Biotechnology can facilitate production of polysaccharides, proteins and so many biological processes such as in anabolism as amino acid and enzyme productions. Microorganisms can be used in the treatment of wastes including industrial as well as organic wastes.
My Prayer for PNG today is: “Help us oh Star of the ocean, be with us in our strife. When we are faced with temptation. Tossed by the Storms of life…’
Next week: Genetics in science and technology
- Michael John Uglo is a science textbook author and lecturer in Avionics, Auto-piloting and Aircraft Engineering. Direct comments to: [email protected]