An Astrology Chart for Bacteria

The following is an article from the Annals of Improbable Research.

(Image credit: Flickr user   Matthew Kirkland)

By Karen Hopkin, Ph.D.
Journal of NIH Research, Washington, DC
Photos by Tim Hazzard, Ph.D.
Oregon Regional Primate Research Center, Portland, Oregon

Editor's note: Photos of all twelve of signs appear in the original version of this article in AIR 3:6.

Astrological science holds that the differential monthly positioning of the stars and planets controls human mood (DSM-IIIR),1 personality (Goodman, 1972),2 and even fate (Reagan, 1982).3

But what of the daily variations in the location of the star that is responsible for all life on earth-the sun? Might this simple diurnal cycle affect the lives of more primitive, shorter-lived organisms, such as prokaryotes? If the relative hourly positions of the Sun and Earth do influence bacterial fate, a sample horoscope for the common laboratory bug, Escherichia coli,4 might read something like this. Numbers indicate time of day (am or pm) when a bacterium was born.

Aries (12 to 1)

A long dark stranger may be swimming into your life. Might be a good idea to eliminate any viral sequences from your genome. This special someone has an F plasmid with your name on it. Excess oxygen may be in your future. Crank up the superoxide dismutase and hoard vitamins C and E.

Taurus (1 to 2)

You will develop ampicillin resistance. Take advantage of your new beta lactam splitting talents and venture into drugged media. Look for a nice, tetracycline-resistant mate and start a multi-drug resistant family.

Gemini (2 to 3)

A creep with wandering pilli will make a pass at you. Why not take all his genes and leave him an empty mass of lipoprotein? You're feeling motile, but should avoid the south side of the petri dish. Don't be intimidated by eukaryotes.

Cancer (3 to 4)

Your stars are definitely off course, and you will likely be engulfed by a hungry euglena. But every cloud has a silver lining-you will develop a trusting relationship with its mitochondria.

Leo (4 to 5)

Tough times ahead-minimal media at best. Why not sporulate and try again in a month or two? A hearty virus will sweep through your parent colony. Rest and get plenty of complex sugars to avoid this nasty little phage.

Virgo (5 to 6)

Great financial news-New England BioLabs is hot for your plasmid. But things slow down when your home plate gets shoved into the cold room for two weeks. Use the time to do some badly needed repairs to your cell wall.

Libra (6 to 7)

You're feeling mischievous and consider ruining a grad student's thesis by inexplicably altering your phosphofructokinase expression. Sure, it might be fun to wreck a scientist's career, but can you handle the extra glucose-1,6 bisphosphate? Be sure to get rid of excess acid before visiting your mother.

Scorpio (7 to 8)

Rich medium supplemented with casamino acids is in your future. Rev up the Embden-Myerhoff pathway! Avoid sticking you chemoreceptors into other cells' business. Some of your more sensitive friends may be experiencing pre-S phase-syndrome and are best left alone.

Sagittarius (8 to 9)

Beware lab techs promising golden opportunities. You'll only get a nanometer-thick coating of precious metal before you take a little trip to the scanning electron microscope. Prepare to spend some time caring for a friend in heat shock.

Capricorn (9 to 10)

Isn't it time you grow up and divide? Your friends have all set up colonies of their own. So stop living off the nutrients released by your dead relatives, and GET A LIFE! Live or lyse, my friend.

Aquarius (10 to 11)

An urge to rediscover your roots sends you on a trip to your homeland-a young student's lower bowel. Travel should be easy: Microbiologists rarely wash their hands before eating.

Pisces (11 to 12)

Ethanol has become your main source of carbon, you soused bug. Keep it up and you may wake up wondering how you ever acquired the ability to fluoresce. While you're thinking of it, stock up on catalase-where there's oxygen there's peroxide. Divide early and often!


References and Notes

  1. 1Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition [DSM-IV], published by American Psychiatric Association (American Psychiatric Press, Inc.), updated 1994, Washington, DC.
  2. 2Sun Signs, Linda Goodman, Bantam Books, NY, 1968.
  3. 3President Ronald Reagan, numerous US government documents, and interpersonal and interstellar communications.
  4. 4To be specific: DH5 E. coli, phenotype F- supE44 hsdR17 recA1 gyrA96 endA1 thi-1 relA1 deoR lambda-

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This article is republished with permission from the Nov/Dec 1997 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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