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Editor's Note

A newfound respect for the microbial world

10:30am, December 18, 2013

Many years ago, I heard the scientist and writer Stephen Jay Gould speak eloquently and convincingly about bacterial dominance. Despite what many people think about humans’ place in the scheme of things, he said, we live in a world of microbes. “The most outstanding feature of life’s history is that through 3.5 billion years this has remained, really, a bacterial planet,” he said in a 1997 interview with Mother Jones. “Most creatures are what they’ve always been: They’re bacteria and they rule the world. And we need to be nice to them.” (If it has been awhile since you’ve indulged in Gould’s wonderful prose, I highly recommend his 1996 essay “Planet of the bacteria,” available at bit.ly/SN_Gould.)

Gould would not be surprised to learn, I think, of all the rich details coming out about just how bacteria and other small-scale

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