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Bacteria-Killing Viruses Wield an Iron Spike

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the isn't-it-ironic dept.

Science 97

sciencehabit writes "Scientists have long known that a group of viruses called bacteriophages have a knack for infiltrating bacteria and that some begin their attack with a protein spike. But the tip of this spike is so small that no one knew what it was made of or exactly how it worked. Now a team of researchers has found a single iron atom at the head of the spike, a discovery that suggests phages enter bacteria in a different way than surmised (abstract)."

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Viruses wield iron swords (5, Interesting)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193689)

So, now that we have confirmation that viruses have discovered and now use iron weapons expect this to be the latest Syfy movie.

Re:Viruses wield iron swords (1)

cshark (673578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193735)

There really is nothing better than cheesy sci fi movies about nonsense. I'm glad this delicate art form survives in America. If it didn't we would be stuck with depressing European dystopias and Middle Eastern zombie movies. No thanks.

Re:Viruses wield iron swords (5, Insightful)

moogaloonie (955355) | about 2 years ago | (#39194845)

I think dumb stuff can actually improve your cognitive skills if you approach it properly. I hadn't thought about gravity like I should've until I saw how wrong everything was in the Star Trek reboot. I gained an understanding about something without taking in any new information simply by seeing how it was depicted so clearly wrong that I had to reconcile (almost) every notion I held about about gravity. Similarly, American politics never made sense to me until I understood how professional wrestling is booked, scripted, canonized, and repeated or redacted right in front of the audience.

Re:Viruses wield iron swords (5, Funny)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193791)

300 microns: the movie
Starring Gerard Butler as the voice of Bacterionidas
and Michael Fassbender as Infectillios
with Lena Headey as Queen Gorgorrhea
and Rodrigo Santoro as X3/rX35 the God-Virus
Featuring amazing microscopy effects which seamlessly switch between 4000x 10,000x and 16,000x views in mid action sequence!
Coming this summer!

"Tonight, we dine in the lower digestive tract!"

Re:Viruses wield iron swords (2)

zixxt (1547061) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193959)

300 microns: the movie
Starring Gerard Butler as the voice of Bacterionidas
and Michael Fassbender as Infectillios
with Lena Headey as Queen Gorgorrhea
and Rodrigo Santoro as X3/rX35 the God-Virus
Featuring amazing microscopy effects which seamlessly switch between 4000x 10,000x and 16,000x views in mid action sequence!
Coming this summer!

"Tonight, we dine in the lower digestive tract!"

Bravo Sir, Bravo!

Re:Viruses wield iron swords (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#39195759)

You forgot "This is madness!" "Madness? THIS... IS... THE CERVIX!"

Re:Viruses wield iron swords (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194621)

Tool use alone is not sufficient to claim sentience, unless the writers need the virus to be sentient.

Re:Viruses wield iron swords (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39211937)

More importantly, now that they are using iron tipped weapons, did they use bronze ones before that? Will they evolve to use Steel next?

Very cool. (0)

cshark (673578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193703)

I want one!

Re:Very cool. (2)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193763)

But the tip of this spike is so small that no one knew what it was made of or exactly how it worked.

Sounds like Bucky Larson's dick...

Re:Very cool. (2)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193767)

you already have them.. certainly in your stomach, and depending on your hygiene, maybe elsewhere too :P

Awww (3, Funny)

Aerorae (1941752) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193755)

I always liked to fantasize it was a wooden one...

*THIS* is exploration (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39193759)

Pay attention, folks. Important things are going on. Our understanding of matter at the atomic level is improving daily. We will have a model of how matter organizes itself into life. Eventually, we'll be able to theoretically (not just empirically) understand the immensly complex goings-on of a single cell, then how cells work as a human being. We'll have much better control of diseases including aging.

It's a bright future for people who like life. People who are happy with their handful of decades followed by decline and don't have the courage to live longer can ignore these things.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1, Interesting)

dankasak (2393356) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194147)

Understanding what's killing us early is quite a different thing from DOING something about it. I can tell you what's killing us early right now. Diet. Toxic chemicals - in particular inorganic ones. Lack of exercise. Quick Summary: Western society. Now that we know what's killing us early, what do we do to fix it?

Re:*THIS* is exploration (4, Insightful)

MisterMidi (1119653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194281)

Yeah, that's why life expectancy has been going up for the last two centuries or so. But don't let get facts in the way :)

Re:*THIS* is exploration (2, Insightful)

aintnostranger (1811098) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194333)

Yeah, that's why life expectancy has been going up for the last two centuries or so. But don't let get facts in the way :)

This is why I still read slashdot. A place like any other where stupidity flourishes - but where it might meet a quick death at the hands of intelligence and inquiry. Bravo.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (4, Insightful)

BluBrick (1924) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194565)

To be fair, life expectancy has been going up for the last 200(,000) odd years because in that time we have discovered and learned how to do something about some of the things that used to kill us early - you know, starting with predators, and moving on through weather and famine right up to bubonic plague, cholera, smallpox, and influenza.

These days we have a tendency to live long enough for other things to kill us early. (Often it's ourselves - we haven't been able to do anything about that one yet!)

Life is an arms race, in which life only ever wins by beating its opponent, life.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39195067)

Improvements in life expectancy have less to do with medicine and more to do with public health, particularly on how sanitation reduces child mortality.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (2)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#39195379)

He's completely right about diet and exercise though. Heart disease/atherosclerosis is the biggest cause of death in the US, ever since the government started telling people that fat was bad, and everyone started getting the majority of their energy from sugary crap instead.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39197759)

Actually, life expectancy has increased primarily due to the decline in child mortality rates.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (4, Insightful)

tbird81 (946205) | about 2 years ago | (#39194759)

I can tell you what's killing us early right now. Diet. Toxic chemicals - in particular inorganic ones.

Inorganic ones?

So NaCl is dangerous, but organic compounds such as CH3OH are okay to consume? I'll remember that.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (0)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about 2 years ago | (#39195649)

He may have had the intent of putting metals and heavy metals in the spotlight. You know, like how you basically can't eat fish anywhere in most of the world without getting some mercury out of them.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 2 years ago | (#39197935)

No, the fool way above was trying to put out marketing bullshit. They are one of those people that think "Don't panic, it's ORGANIC!" and are woefully ignorant of actual chemistry in any degree.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (5, Informative)

ledow (319597) | about 2 years ago | (#39195321)

Diet? Seriously? We have the cleanest, most rigorously tested, most reliable, most nutritious, most easily digested and most available food sources that we've ever had in human history.

Part of the problem that you basically imagine, is caused by us having TOO GOOD FOOD. Too much of it, too easily available, too cheap, too nutritious (fat / carbohydrate is a nutrient!). We cook everything to rigorous standards (and though that does slightly increase incidences of cancer, it's a much better alternative to eating food raw by orders of magnitude) and check and control them through managed supply lines.

What's killing us "early" (i.e. earlier than we could potentially live but A LOT LONGER than even our grandparents were ever expected to live) is that we no longer favour longevity over, say, enjoyment. We are making conscious, informed decisions to eat too much of the wrong things, drink too much of the wrong things, exercise too little (and when we do exercise, don't do it anywhere near properly), etc. so that our time here on Earth can be spent doing things that our bodies were never designed to do voluntarily (roller-coasters!) but that we find exciting.

When farming was established, that left humans with free time. It's with that free time that we did all the myriad things we've achieved - from maths and the arts to social structure in modern Western society. All of the things you know as "going to work" is done because we don't have to have everyone till fields all day long, every day any more. We can put in 8 hours a day MINIMUM of productive work into something that's not required for a human to survive, even to the point that we are rewarded for doing so by being GIVEN the ability to have food brought to our door.

That free time from pure survival has become our anathema, but also our greatest attribute. What kills us nowadays is choice. We didn't have a lot of it historically, now we do. I can choose to not smoke, not drink, eat well, exercise and thus live - on average - for longer. Or I can choose not to do those things, and yet STILL SURVIVE PAST MATING, still nurture an infant to adulthood, etc.

Human innovation and ingenuity over eras have given us the ability to choose what we do with almost our entire lives. Use it. And stop worrying about whose going to "fix" the problem of being able to do just what we want with our life.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39196515)

While it is fair to say that we have the option to eat healthier these days than ever before, you have to take into consideration that often we can't AFFORD to make that choice. I would love to eat a raw, organic diet, but seriously cannot afford to do so; soda is cheaper than juice, processed foods are cheaper than raw ones, and unless my entire life revolves around iceberg lettuce, cooking healthy is hard to do.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (2)

ledow (319597) | about 2 years ago | (#39197197)

Consider that juice is probably from fruit that was grown half-way around the world to most people who drink it. I know I drink Spanish orange juice, for instance. This is a luxury that you complain you lack because of price. If you wanted to drink healthily, you'd only drink water alongside your ordinary food intake. My point is that the food you eat, even the horrible "unhealthy" stuff is much more nutritious than anything that anyone was eating even a hundred years ago. It may not be *ideal* but it's certainly better than ever before. Ever seen a real carrot, not one farmed on a mass scale, for instance? They are small, purple, spindly things that you wouldn't give to a goat.

Again, it's a time/effort/nutrition tradeoff. If you want better food you have to work slightly more. But, historically, if you wanted ANY food you had to work VERY hard ALL the time. Still, the difference in effort between you eating "healthily" (by modern standards) and just eating is less than 1% of your income, hence less than 1% of the work you need to do to get it. I'm not saying I can afford it either (but I'm one of these unhealthy sods who just doesn't care what they eat), but it's still nothing compared to all of human history prior to our generation (and maybe one or two back but that's about it).

To say that eating unhealthily is the killer of modern life is to be extremely ignorant of the exact statistics and impact of simple things. What kills us is *desire* and *laziness* - because it's easier to buy a carton of juice in a convenient box that tastes nice rather than drink only water.

Humans survive quite adequately on water and food alone. But you've been *spoiled* to the point where you expect juice instead of soda (flavoured sugar water). That's a trade-off you've made in terms of effort vs reward. Juice tastes better than water. Soda tastes better than water, come to that. That's why we drink more of that than we even do pure water.

Of course modern food is more expensive - it has more done to it and more safeguards. But there's nothing stopping you growing your own potatoes or lettuce (that's a choice you can make, but not necessarily afford to make - in time if nothing else). You'll find them insipid, lacklustre, small, EXTREMELY expensive and far too much effort required to make them, no matter how much you scale up (e.g. organic farming). Again the *desire* tradeoff means we never do it. It's not about cost - you can grow some items cheaply - it's about the tradeoff and ALL humans in Western civilisation prefer the tradeoff of "tastes good while keeping me alive".

The difference between the cost of healthy living and, say, the "gain" of working for an hour in the night (which is now believed to be a "natural" state within humans, who historically refer to first- and second-sleeps in almost all cultures in the world while our 8-hours-uninterrupted is an entirely modern fabrication) is absolutely without comparison. We could all do it. We don't, because we're lazy. That's the killer of modern life - our free-time is more precious than the food we eat or the drink we drink.

(P.S. Cooking healthy isn't hard. Just don't try for "ideally" healthy, which is something you'll never achieve on any budget. Cut out cheese, drink water, carrying on eating everything else the same. Bang. Instantly more healthy. Or eat a Mediterranean diet (mostly pasta or olive or...). Or just cut out the things you "enjoy" rather than the things you "need". A lot of modern cooking is about making things *exciting* or tasty to eat, and people think that's a requirement, for some reason.)

Re:*THIS* is exploration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39197845)

You speak like someone who doesn't have a minimum wage job with three kids and is a single parent. Cooking healthy IS hard to afford on a low income, and in the area I live in, the only jobs available are minimum wage, even if you have a PhD.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39199747)

Well, condoms are a lot cheaper than healthy food... Three kids and a minimum wage job? Hello basic life skills!?

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

itzdandy (183397) | about 2 years ago | (#39197243)

Water is cheaper than soda and juice.

I eat near-paleo within the same budget as I ate mcdonnalds in the past. In fact, my crossfit membership + my diet is roughly equal to my old food expense so I am healthier and in shape for less money. 'expense' is an excuse in most of the western world.

Also, I eat very little lettuce.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39200405)

I hear this a lot. For a counter example:

A pound of bananas is way cheaper than a pound of (insert junky food AC probably eats). And it fills you up more than/as good as junk. I've taken to eating a banana with lunch during the work week, and I get less hungry later.

Vegetables aren't nearly as expensive as (fat, lazy) people try to make them out to be. A lot of you are just fat assholes who want to eat shit and them claim eating healthy is more expensive. We cut out a lot of meat from our diet and our grocery went down, but the healthy food we eat went up.

No kidding, captcha is "ingest."

Re:*THIS* is exploration (2)

itsenrique (846636) | about 2 years ago | (#39196825)

I agree with the majority of your post but

We have the cleanest, most rigorously tested, most reliable, most nutritious,

Do we really have cleaner food (pesticides, GMO drift, soil contamination, water contamination, poor soil quality) than ever? E. Coli from fast food tomatoes is not unheard of at all. Meat has to be cooked so carefully temperature wise largely because of factory farming. You don't hear about food contamination issues unless its as big as the Peanut Corporation of America issue years back (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peanut_Corporation_of_America). And there is a good example of how things can go wrong despite this huge system in place to keep our food free of contaminants (in PCA's case it was salmonella). They hadn't been inspected in years. And that's the norm apparently. US FDA inspects less than 10% of incoming foreign produce, and I don't know numbers on domestic/import produce, but at the grocery store I see mostly produce labeled from another country. I won't argue with reliable, but I feel today's consumer has to be more scrutinizing about the source and processing involved in their food than say our grandparents or even our parents when they were young.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (2)

itsenrique (846636) | about 2 years ago | (#39196859)

Now, you probably won't die from food poisoning, but things that kill you slowly (but fairly surely if you look at a large sample) like pesticides and heavy metals are in our food chain as well.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (2)

itzdandy (183397) | about 2 years ago | (#39197283)

I have to agree with both parent and grandparent. Parent seems to be trying to make a counterpoint but doesn't. Our current food sources are cleaner, more tested, more reliable, and more nutritious. That doesnt mean that they are 'clean' or completely safe, just that they are safer than the food sources of the past.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

itsenrique (846636) | about 2 years ago | (#39197447)

My point is that our food sources are not as good as food sources of the RECENT past.

today's consumer has to be more scrutinizing about the source and processing involved in their food than say our grandparents or even our parents when they were young.

An opinion certainly, but a point too.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

itzdandy (183397) | about 2 years ago | (#39198057)

I'll agree with 'good', but stand by the 'clean','tested', and 'reliable'

IMHO, 'good' in this situation is a measurement against a specific target and in this instance that is a human. Food might be lower quality food as measured by how safe it is or how long it lasts or how consistent it is. Food born illness has been around forever but now food born illness is typically more mild. The only increase danger I see is in distribution, specifically, that so much feed goes through bottlenecks so an illness can cross-contaminate shipments.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (3, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | about 2 years ago | (#39197411)

E.coli has been around for over 100m years. Even in the 1800's when it was isolated, it was present in every subject's gut flora. There's nothing "modern" about it at all. If you create food, especially food that's been anywhere near an animal, you have a chance of E.coli.

Salmonella is almost identical in these terms too. Animals have it naturally in their bodies, it's just whether it takes hold in a particular session of you eating it. If you're eating animals, you're going to get it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, ... People were dying of bacteria like this for millions of years before we worked out how to cook food properly (and even there, as you can see by how easy TOMATOES can be affected by a bacterium from animals, there's nothing we can do to stop it, or to stop it getting more successful at infecting us!).

And incidents of poor hygiene show you exactly what was happening even 100 years ago in terms of people eating food. WW2 "Stomach Divisions" were rife, and have been in every war prior to that. It's arguable that the UK became such a world power because we discovered several facts related to food hygiene.

Meat is no more dangerous than before. You don't have to be any more careful cooking with a modern cow than with a ancient one. The only fact is that we're much more likely to spot the cause and isolate it today.

There is also no amount of cooking or scrubbing that will guarantee your food free of such adverse effects. Our grandparents eat food fresh or not at all. We now *CHOOSE* to keep food for months because we can.

Nobody claims that modern food is perfect, but even in my grandparents time, we weren't able to station an army for a year without people falling foul of all sorts of stomach illness and food poisoning. In some famous historical European battles, nearly HALF of the troops used were out of action at any one time because of illness, primarily caused by food hygiene and the food itself.

The health scares you talk about regarding modern processed are like the modern "war" news. One person dies and it's front-page. Back in my grandparents time, entire streets of civilians were bombed to obliteration and didn't get a mention in the local paper because it was so insignificant compared to everything else happening at the time.

Today, a few dozen people falling to E.coli is "news", because we don't see E.coli much in the wild now because of the extent of processed and tested food. In my grandparent's time, it was taking out vast swathes of the army and a major problem.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

Eevee (535658) | about 2 years ago | (#39198215)

When farming was established, that left humans with free time. It's with that free time that we did all the myriad things we've achieved - from maths and the arts to social structure in modern Western society.

Um, no. hunter-gatherers [wikipedia.org] have much more free time than farmers. What farming gives you is a surplus of food, allowing a larger population and specialization.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | about 2 years ago | (#39198785)

> We are making conscious, informed decisions to eat too much of the wrong things

I must object to that. You'd be surprised how many people swallow the mcMarketing bullshit about how their stuff is balanced and good for you.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

Fned (43219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39204229)

When farming was established, that left humans with free time.

Wait, what?! [wikipedia.org]

Re:*THIS* is exploration (2)

jidar (83795) | about 2 years ago | (#39197839)

Man this is stupid.

Newsflash to the hippie new agers: Natural isn't better be default. Nature doesn't give a shit about your health and will quite readily make things that kill you.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 2 years ago | (#39195805)

"People who are happy with their handful of decades followed by decline and don't have the courage to live longer can ignore these things."

Who, exactly, are these people?

I'm just curious that you believe some people are actually AFRAID to live longer? That's a curious worldview and I wonder where it comes from?

Re:*THIS* is exploration (3, Insightful)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about 2 years ago | (#39196979)

I don't want to live for ever. The great thing about life is, there is so much of it. Trillions of humans have lived, and that's a wonderful thing. I hope that trillions more will live after me. This cannot happen if we live for ever, in which case those trillions will never have a chance at life. We'll be clinging on to the earth, and throwing down the ladders and stepping on the fingers of those that would follow us as we grow older and meaner and more jealous of the lives that we have stolen.

I want live my life, and then I will slip into the void and let others live theirs. And that fills me with joy, not fear.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (3, Interesting)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | about 2 years ago | (#39197539)

There are enough resources in the universe to support an effectively limitless expansion of the human race.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 2 years ago | (#39203889)

I used to think that, but it's become clear that the effort to make use of those resources is staggering. I just don't think it will happen. Especially, it won't happen if the entire human race gets old and stuck in its ways. Young minds are the most creative, and if we abolish youth...

Re:*THIS* is exploration (2)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | more than 2 years ago | (#39204255)

Well that's an interesting question: whether the stuck in their ways is due to having experienced years of life or being angry at young people because of what they've lost.

However, as far as physical age is concerned, all evidence points to any biological immortality coming with/from a lack of aging. Specifically lab tests with telomerase shows reversal of physical age in mice, and similar in jellyfish. Any digital form of immortality will probably come with a vast reduction in power requirements vs. a biological immortality and would also do away with any physical limitations as well as expanding the available neural network space (to an effectively limitless value)

Now I'm firmly of the belief that old people are pricks because they're angry at the world (who wouldn't be when you're reminded constantly of how useless you are). It follows that extending life indefinitely would not cause the same kind of attitude if the physical age did not come with it.

However, it's just as possible that it is a mental state that comes from weak minds believing they're more experienced than others after having lived so long. That wouldn't be helped by a lack of physical age and your concern would be most imperative.

I admit to being biased towards good immortality, because I fully hope to take advantage of it...

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206619)

Any digital form of immortality will probably come with a vast reduction in power requirements vs. a biological immortality and would also do away with any physical limitations as well as expanding the available neural network space (to an effectively limitless value)

I'm not convinced about digital immortality either. Why would I care if there is a computer simulation out there that thinks that it is me? I know, "human consciousness isn't what it thinks it is", and all that. I am aware of the arguements on both sides, I just haven't made up "my mind" about it, with all due caveats.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | more than 2 years ago | (#39208643)

Oh I get that, I'm not entirely over the thats-not-me hurdle myself... but I'd pull the trigger anyways if it were available.

I think though that I should have cleared up my argument from the start; I was only going against your issue with resources. I really don't think (with a helping of hope) that there is a problem there.

As to the comment that you were originally replying to (not mine) saying that any right-minded person wanting immortality - I'm not one to force my opinions or beliefs on others. I'm not qualified to tell people they should choose immortality given the option and even if I was I still wouldn't.

My mother says she "wants to see what's next". Myself, I think that's a little wild because I like what I've got just fine... talk about risk/reward! I also recognize that my opinions are my own and are not something to be forced on others.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39198229)

Then how do you feel about the fact that we live longer and better than before? Are you against doctors washing their hands after autopsies before helping women give birth? For the vast majority of human history, many infants died before the age of 1. Are you against vaccines? After all, we gotta make room for all these "trillions" of other people! BTW, your math is WAY off.

http://www.prb.org/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedonEarth.aspx

But I don't expect too much rationality out of a deathoid nutter. Oh please, let me have two decades of useful life and then let me watch my body decay! How glorious! How romantic! I just want other people to live!

Get over yourself.

Please just carry on and ignore the exciting findings of the bio age. Keep your head firmly in the past. I'm glad that people that actually lived in the past had more foresight than you!

Re:*THIS* is exploration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39197667)

Yes. It comes from observation. There are many people who express that point of view. People who are perfectly happy with their already extended lifespan because they happen to live in the 21st century. But because they watched The Outer Limits they have, as you say, this curious worldview that somehow it's wrong to want more life...

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 2 years ago | (#39219611)

Who, exactly, are these people?

"These people" include my religious relatives. They have ensured that my grandfather and uncle can never return, by cremating them instead of freezing. I would have gladly paid for the freezing so that I could potentially experience their presence again. But noooo, "God doesn't like that" (code for "I don't like that"), so it didn't happen.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39196929)

Hey, a pro-life-extension post that didn't get -1? Maybe I should stop slamming Space Nutters directly after all. But I *did* get a nice slam about what "exploration" REALLY is in there.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39200763)

It's a bright future for people who like life.

You're still going to die of old age, QA.

Re:*THIS* is exploration (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | about 2 years ago | (#39201275)

Pay attention, folks. Important things are going on. Our understanding of matter at the atomic level is improving daily. We will have a model of how matter organizes itself into life. Eventually, we'll be able to theoretically (not just empirically) understand the immensly complex goings-on of a single cell, then how cells work as a human being. We'll have much better control of diseases including aging.

It's a bright future for people who like life. People who are happy with their handful of decades followed by decline and don't have the courage to live longer can ignore these things.

"During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them."

Sorry, I just couldn't help but think of that line when I read it.

Hemalurgy!!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39193787)

Brandon Sanderson is on to something.

A lone atom doesn't make a sword (4, Interesting)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193789)

A single iron atom isn't going to much of a sword. Iron swords work because the iron atoms support each other.

A lone iron atom might do something chemically like pretend to be a heme molecule to bypass the bacteria's defenses.

Re:A lone atom doesn't make a sword (4, Informative)

exploder (196936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193809)

TFA says specifically that, although scientists expected something like what you describe, the iron atom is in fact forming a sharp point that mechanically penetrates the membrane.

Re:A lone atom doesn't make a sword (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39193857)

Except the iron atom isn't at the exact point, it's within the point and seems to serve as an anchor around which are an oxahedral cluster of folds wrap.

The key is that the iron ion allows the creation of a structure which won't unfold as it penetrates.

Re:A lone atom doesn't make a sword (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39197135)

So continuing this analogy is is like a sword, but an alloy instead of pure iron.

Re:A lone atom doesn't make a sword (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 2 years ago | (#39197953)

AKA it's a steel tip.

Re:A lone atom doesn't make a sword (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206993)

So the Virus has invented the steel-toed boot for kicking down doors with?

Re:A lone atom doesn't make a sword (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193839)

Hmm, but with the continual fight against phages using antibiotics, how long is it before one of them gets an upgrade from their iron 'sword' into Stormbringer [wikipedia.org] :-)

Re:A lone atom doesn't make a sword (2)

mmontour (2208) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193881)

The picture in the abstract shows where the iron ion is located. It's not at the very tip of the spike. It's a bit further back, holding a few protein pieces together.

Re:A lone atom doesn't make a sword (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39194115)

Not quite, the entire tip (the pink in the image) is essentially sharpened by a single centrally positioned iron atom with the proteins behind it. Think of a bunch of copper threads hanging out at the end of a wire (the wire being the protein), those threads hang loosely and are not really rigid, but add a blob of soldering iron to join them together and they become much more rigid.

Re:A lone atom doesn't make a sword (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194331)

A single iron atom isn't going to much of a sword.

Maybe they're fighting Elven bacteria.

Re:A lone atom doesn't make a sword (1)

azalin (67640) | about 2 years ago | (#39194943)

The image of little bacterial cells with pointy ears and tiny bows really made me smile.

Re:A lone atom doesn't make a sword (1)

durrr (1316311) | about 2 years ago | (#39195561)

A single molecule edge cuts good.
A monofilament is the holy grail of sci-fi slicing.
A single-atom pointy stick have to be the ultimate stabbing device by the same line of reasoning.

Although you are probably right, bacteria usually have various mechanisms for accumulating iron from the enviroment, to the point where the body decreases availible iron as a response to infection. So an iron bait could potentially make the bacteria actively spread their cheeks to the phages.

Tools (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193807)

So not only do bacteria use tools, but crafted iron tools at that?
It is amazing what a sped up life cycle and evolution can do.

Strange that is is iron, on a single atom level it would not be any tougher then the other elements.

Re:Tools (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39193923)

They tried copper but someone kept steeling them to sale for scrap.

Re:Tools (5, Funny)

MooseByte (751829) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194003)

It's worse than that. Now that the bacteriophages have achieved Iron Age upgrades, they can develop Archery and Siege Workshop. If they research Ballistics and deploy enough Helepolis units, they will become unstoppable...

Re:Tools (2)

an unsound mind (1419599) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194409)

Archery is a Stone Age technology! Gandhi of the French will have your head for this!

Re:Tools (1)

FFOMelchior (979131) | about 2 years ago | (#39194687)

Against his religion, being Buddhist and all.

Re:Tools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39195005)

Oh so that is why there are Buddhist warrior monks eh?

Re:Tools (2)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about 2 years ago | (#39197043)

You're thinking of Ghandi of India. He said Ghandi of the French, who was a total bad-ass.

Re:Tools (2)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194385)

Crap... now they can use the iron spikes to harvest diamonds, and then start building diamond spikes!

Re:Tools (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39194971)

What are you talking about? Iron is a metal and metals are per definition *softer* than other elements, not tougher. Indeed, the most metallic elements (Li, Na, K, Cs, Rb) can easily be cut with a butter knife (though you should take care with Cs and Rb).

If you want tough you have to look at ceramics.

Now hand over your geek card and learn some elementary chemistry. Sheeeesh!

Helpful confirmation (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39193833)

This proves once and for all my theory that bacteria are not werewolves OR vampires!

Re:Helpful confirmation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39193855)

But it provides one idea on why sliver is so good at killing werewolves.

Guess what? (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194063)

Sounds like the viruses discovered...
Maiden! Maiden! Maiden!

Never in a thousand years thought I'd have a reason to write that on slashdot.

Dark Ages (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194195)

So that's the medieval viruses. What did the stone-age viruses use?

Are Iranian viruses trying to obtain nuclear weapons? That might leave a mark.

Re:Dark Ages (1)

sjwt (161428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194567)

Its worse then that, the article says its 'bound iron' that sounds like its an advanced iron alloy, it might be more advanced than Damascus steel.

They must be female viruses (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194209)

...once during a dinner out with friends, I said something stupid*, and my wife dug her pointy metal heel into my foot under the table out of sight. People looked at my contorted expression and were thinking WTF?

* Not uncommon

You think that's bad... (1)

turing_m (1030530) | about 2 years ago | (#39196185)

Do you know what it's like to fall in the mud and get kicked... in the head... with an iron boot? Of course you don't, no one does. It never happens. Sorry, Tablizer, that's a dumb question... skip that.

Single celled soul (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39194433)

Next you'll be telling me they have souls.

Thousands of years ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39194445)

Thousands of years ago, Bacteriophages wielded a single atom of bronze at the tips of their protein spikes, before the discovery of iron. (Yes, Bronzium, element 39.5, tragically excluded from the Periodic Table by bigots who dislike elements with rational numbers of protons that are not also integers).

Extra credit for those of you who deduced how I came up with 39.5. And yes, I know I didn't weight it correctly, this is after all, a joke. If you want accuracy, you've come to the wrong place.

Re:Thousands of years ago... (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about 2 years ago | (#39196769)

Duh. (Atomic # of Cu + atomic # of Sn) / 2. You forgot to include the typical 88% Cu, 12% Sn ratio, so the real answer would be more like 0.88 * 29 + 0.12 * 50 = 31.52.

Wait a minute! (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#39194461)

Those aren't spikes! Those are Iron Grips! The brand bacteriophages prefer.

Use this behavior to kill viruses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39194509)

Why not modify a bacteria that is fatal to the virus, a honeypot of sorts? The virus thinks it is the predator, when it reality it is the prey.

Re:Use this behavior to kill viruses? (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about 2 years ago | (#39197105)

I think the idea is to use this behaviour to kill bacteria. Phages are really good at that, and biologists have been studying the use of bacteriophages to treat bacteria for a long time.

Now that we know how the bacteriophage works, we can build our own smart medicines that use the same technique.

viral entry is unimportant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39194737)

Actually, it's plenty important, but in the big picture it will probably take second seat compared to the complexity of viral assembly. Especially when talking about phages, the fully-assembled virus is (sometimes) a complex machinery that is literally "cocked" and ready to inject the genetic material like a gun: it can't be measured directly, but some estimates put the equivalent pressure for the packaged DNA at about 20 atmospheres.

Once you have a fully-assembled virus, the game is pretty much lost: they are fully activated and disseminated. If interested in stopping viral replication, it will likely be better to interrupt the process of production, assembly, or maturation. Of course, this assumes that you want to stop the virus: some phages make very handy little bacterial assassins and have useful commercial applications.

Aids? (1)

aklinux (1318095) | about 2 years ago | (#39194803)

It seems to me that some medical person once explained to me something similar in the way the HIV virus works. Pierces some sort of cell and injects it's DNA, causes the injected cell to create more HIV, and so on.... It's been years since I heard this explanation, so maybe I have it wrong. Then again, maybe there's some sort of tie-in?

If nothing else, it appears the Iron Age began on Earth earlier than we were taught in history class... Just not by humans.

And now for the second amendment... (1)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#39195477)

Outlaw iron spikes and the only virii that will have iron spikes will be criminals phages!

Re:And now for the second amendment... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39198697)

How long before the TSA declares that bacteriophages will no longer be allowed in carry-on baggage?

Interesting. (2)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 years ago | (#39195599)

It could be used to deliver antibiotics directly into the bacteria. That would enable us to develop a new class of drugs.

/the Russians are light years ahead on this (2)

Pax681 (1002592) | about 2 years ago | (#39195881)

i remember seeing a TV Documentary on bacteriophage years ago. it was very interesting indeed.
using the search string "bacteriophages + Russia [google.com] " will give you endless results and show that since Stalin's time this has been used there
one thing that was a surprise to learn from the documentary is that they seem to all be pretty much in sewage and then extracted and cultured from there.
they then test each strain of bacteriophage against an array of nasties and see which one that particular "phage" is effective against
it brings a whole new meaning to "being in the shit"

Only a iron spear? (1)

Argos (173864) | about 2 years ago | (#39198877)

No lasers?

History: phages used in pre-antibiotic era (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 2 years ago | (#39199157)

I know the Russians were especially interested in this technique. The antibiotic era is not that old: there are still plenty of people now alive born before antibiotics were common. And there is some talk talk of reviving phage technology due to the declining effectiveness of antibiotics as bacteria evolve resistance.
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