a little more chemistry talk

A few days ago I did a post about chemistry and at the end I posed a question. Well, the answer to it is that oxidative reduction is critically important to us because it allows for a dramatic difference in energy production. The trade off for this efficiency is that to use the process you have to take in a nasty poisonous gas--which also causes you do die early.

That actually brings to mind the first serious pollution crisis on Earth. A lot of people assume that we people are the first polluters of the planet. Not so, not by a long shot. The worst pollution crisis on Earth happened a good long time ago and almost wiped out all the life on the planet. The pollution was in the form of a deadly gas--one that's very chemically active and tends to end up creating chemical havoc. The nasty gas was, of course, oxygen and those first polluters were cyanobacteria, sort of like primitive algae. This all took place around 3.2 billion years ago. Ancient history even in geological terms.

The process by which this gas was produced was photosynthesis and while it took a while for the O2 levels to get high enough--eventually most of the life on the planet was wiped out. That life was mostly bacteria and in some places they still exist--hiding from oxygen--and they get their designation, anaerobic bacteria, from their need to avoid oxygen rich environments. Bacteria like this are often found deep underground and in an enviroment like that it's believed that they can live for tens of thousands of years, maybe even millions. That's the price we pay for living life fast and on the edge--by using oxygen we gave up immortality. On the other hand, who wants to be a bacteria deep under the ocean or miles underground?

Now there's plenty of anaerobic bacteria in less extreme places. Hell, we all have pounds of them in our gut merrily helping us break down food into more digestible forms. But these "domesticated" bacteria don't have the incredibly long lives of the bacteria that have totally escaped the nasty influence of oxygen. So if you get tetanus, lockjaw, or some other type of anaerobic bacterial related condition try to find some comfort in the idea that those bacteria have short lives just like us. And blame it all on oxygen!

I guess this ended up being more of a bacteria talk than a chemistry one. Who knew? I just ramble, you know, there's no game plan when I start typing...


Claire said…
Well, I've learned something new this morning!!

Here from Michele's today...hiya!
OY VEY, is all I can say. Bacteria good or bad is quite mysterious to me. We are all the victims ofcertain kinds of bacteria and I wish I weren't, don't you? UGH!
Thanks for reminding me we are all at risk, all the time.
Guess I'll get back under the bacteria ridden covers, once again! (lol)

Here from Michele tonight my dear Utenzi!
Noi said…
I cant believe you write a whole post about gas, pollution, and bacteria. Hehe..anyway I use to major in Chemistry an I really hated it.

Like you I have no game plan when I start writing. Your ramble at least resulted in it making sense..;)
kenju said…
Sometimes the unplanned ones turn out to be the most interesting - and garner the most comments....LOL
Thanks for the Bacteriology 101 lecture.
Pearl said…
Interesting post. I'm fond of anaerobic bacteria but not much gets written about any bacteria that's understanding. All these survivors like cockroaches and deep sea and deep gut things that persist under mainstream radar are lovely.

Michele sent me this time.
Teresa said…
My chemistry background isn't very good. I was just wondering... does oxygen like to appear in pairs that you refer to it as O2?

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