Saturday, April 9, 2011

A new name for tiny species, whose existence is still hotly debated: nanons

The term nanons has been given as a short-hand for nanobacteria by a group of French scientists led by Didier Raoult at the Unité des Rickettsies, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique [1]. The group members think they have experimentally confirmed the existence of nanobacteria.

The respective singular nouns are nanon and nanobacterium. The name indicates that the associated (proposed) life-forms are tiny: about 200 nanometers and even lower. In physical and chemical research within materials science, the nano-scale viewpoint is commonplace, considering instrumental/analytical resolution and techniques based on supramolecular templating and molecular self-assembly. Also, the size of prions and viruses falls within this range. But the status of cellular organisms within this size range is still controversial [2].

Nanons are real. But are they really life-forms? Or to ask the question in a more differentiated form: what kind of life do they live? It comes down to the definition of life. And once again, we got an example demonstrating that our human languages, derived to name and communicate objects at larger scales, lack “natural words” to adequately phrase facts beyond that scope.

Keywords: nanoscience, biology, bacteriology, mcrobes, origin of life, philosophy

References and further reading
[1] Rob R. Dunn: Every Living Thing. First Edition. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2009; page 221.
[2] John D. Young and Jan Martel: The Rise and Fall of Nanobacteria. Sci. Am. Jan. 2010, 302 (1), pp.52-59; also see Bions, biologically related and structurally similar ion complexes.

No comments:

Post a Comment