Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Pleomorphic Strep versus The Mecanno Set

Readers of my various blogs probably already know the names Robert Solow and Trevor Swan.

They are the two economists who first came up with today's simple, precise, predictable, lucid explanations why human society is always going to keep on getting richer and richer and richer: the endless growth theory.

(Sic ---- very very Sic....)

Solow actually got the so called 'Nobel Prize in Economics' for his version, but even he admits Swan should have got one too, for his earlier version.

These theories are 'simple' for orthodox economists anyway --- the best I can do to describe these theories is to say that they turn on a quasi-religious Faith in the total interchangability of  things like capital and labour and resources.

So no surprise that Solow is best known for using his theory to explain why the world can,  in effect, "get along without any natural resources".


But Trevor Swan's my Target for Tonight.

He quite accurately used Mecanno Sets as his metaphor to describe the Modern Orthodox viewpoint on the interchangability of units of capital.

I, myself, actually date the rise and fall of Modernity from the rise and fall of those once popular construction kids for kids that Modernist parents gave their children to explain how the world worked.

That is how much I agree with Swan that , to misquote William Safire, they served as the "Mecannonic Metaphors of Modernity".

When the parents started having doubts about this explanation - during the mid 1960s - they stopped giving the kits as gifts and most of the companies went bankrupt.

There were dozens of established brands worldwide : in the English speaking world, Mecanno,Erector,Lego and Dinky are usually considered the most popular.

They first emerged about the time (around 1910) that Ernest Rutherford modified John Dalton's explanation that the 100 or so different elements are made of indivisible tiny objects, unique to each element, that he called atoms.

That meant if your nation had no atoms of something vital like chromium, you couldn't have military armour or be a superpower.

Not so, said Rutherford - the truly elemental objects are a few things like electrons, neutrons and protons.

An element is simply an unique ratio of these three objects - take some atoms of something dirt-common like carbon apart and then reassemble the sub atomic bits into a different ratio and hey presto : chromium metal till the cows come home.

Transmutation of atoms: instant superpower status.

Similarly, Mecanno sets can be cars one day and houses the next: a perfect way to prepare Modernist children to become grownup chemists or physicists.

This fairy tale should have unravelled when Physics discovered that far from there being just three stable indivisible lumps of Mecanno Magic, there were actually hundreds of sub atomic bits and they almost all seemed to have very short and very changable existences.

Rather than being stable Lego blocks, these sub atomic particles were more like the fabled Universal Solvent which transmuted and dissolved any container built to hold it.

But you already knew this intutively, didn't you ?

All those multi-billion dollar containers we call nuclear reactor buildings have a very short life, as the uncontrollable sub atomic particles transmute and weaken anything and everything wrapped around them.

This is the real - economic - reason why nuclear energy would be a total flop out in the real world if we taxpayers no longer subsidized them to the tune of billions and trillions of dollars because we believed the big lies Bad Faith Science has told us for 75 years.

But Bad Faith Science remains bloody but unbowed --- the internal science world moved on but the external public metaphor lives on: that ultimately Reality is simple, stable and predictably controllable - just as long as we scientists got lots of funding (and lots of prestige and respect as the controllers of this controllable world).

Martin Henry Dawson was a minor scientist, but he was a good faith scientist: when he saw that the evidence under his microscope didn't fit the theories he had been taught, he changed his theories.

He collected variants on commensal oral strep the way that some pre-war physicists collected sub-atomic particles.

But unlike the physicists, this physician altered his social behavior as a scientist, as a result of this new evidence he collected.

His wildly pleomorphic Strep bacteria, dissolving any straitjacket that medicine tried to put them in, was the microbiological Life-oriented equivalent of the chaotic, unpredictable world that sub atomic particles reveal at the micro level of Matter.

Dawson saw penicillin has coming out of this disorderly dynamic pleomorphic (aka shape-changing/morphing) world of competing fungi and bacteria struggling just to survive; his opponents saw it as just something one could quickly assemble in a factory, out of interchangable chemical parts , just like Mecanno sets....

Who was right?

In truth, Dawson ---- in myth, high technology science brought us penicillin.

Like I always sing, " Charles Manson stole penicillin from the penicillium - I'm here to steal it back..."

PS: Some might argue that Mecanno bits - or electrons and protons - are pretty pleomorphic themselves: they can be made into a car or a house or a bird.

But Dawson's bacterial transformations did not change one of a hundred trillion trillion strep bacteria into one of a hundred trillion trillion staph bacteria .

Any even if he did - why should we care - do really need one more staph bacteria and one less strep bacteria ????

 Rather his cars, in effect, became like a house while remaining a car, ie they were hybrids - something truly new.

They had many (pleo) shapes (morphs), ie diferent shapes with different biological effects, while still remaining bacteria.

So, for example, they could become part bacteria and part fungi.

 As when some fungi took up, via HGT, the bacteria genes to make a penicillin-like antibiotic , adapted it into today's penicillin and then turned it against bacteria...

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