Cues from the Living World
By Tim Lougheed
Astronomy is often touted as the first science pursued by human beings, but perhaps biotechnology actually deserves that title. For while the earliest human minds were undoubtedly pondering the spectacle of the night sky and the mysteries of the universe, they must have been no less engaged in trying to understand and manipulate the natural world closer to hand. The term “biotechnology” today conjures up all manner of microscopic and genetically modified marvels, but its origins point to our survival and success on this planet.
It undoubtedly began with the quest for the next meal, perhaps given the observation that some foodstuffs became more palatable after soaking in water or scorching in fire. Such insights would have broadened our diet, along with the range of environments we could inhabit. At some point an anonymous genius discovered zymurgy, the magic of fermentation that allows staples like beer, wine, and bread to be created from ingredients that might otherwise seem to be unpromising...
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