Voyage: A Microscopic View

Today’s post is part of a collaborative miniseries on time dilation and relativity. Click here if you missed the introduction!

On the day of departure, Darby wished his clones goodbye and set sail through the stars. He didn’t miss them much, since he filled the vessel with new ones within a few days. This voyage would be great.

Several million generations later, Harvey stepped off the vessel and greeted the locals. They were a pleasant sort, but they obsessed over their reproduction problem. They just couldn’t create viable conditions on their own.

“Oh, that’s easy, you just find something carbon-based and latch on.”

Only a few months later, humanity was destroyed by the ancient bacteria that returned from the stars.


Time Dilation
Enjoy your space-cruise, Darby! (Photo credit: -RobW-)

Awesome story, Jason! And thanks for letting me share it here at Medical Microfiction!

Jason’s story takes the perspective of some bacteria that embark on a space voyage with an astronaut. While the time aboard the ship is short of an astronaut, for the bacteria, many generations go by before they reach Earth again. This would be enough time for the shipbound bacteria to mutate slightly so that their likes had never been seen on Earth.

In the meantime, Darby’s distant descendants have been hard at work evolving planetside over the course of a hundred years.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. I speculate that the bacteria on Earth has had to adapt quickly in order to keep pace with new immunities in the human population. Perhaps new vaccines were developed. Perhaps hygiene has slowed down transmission. Perhaps effective drugs were able to destroy latent infections in the bloodstream. Regardless, the Earthbound bacteria are now fundamentally different from Harvey.

What they need is an old-fashioned (although somewhat modified) plan of attack.

The humans of the future may have new weapons, yes, but it’s possible that they’ve lost immunity to old, extinct strains, and would be unprepared for a variant like Harvey.

Roman aqueduct near Tunis. Zaghouan
Roman aqueduct near Tunis. Zaghouan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ancient, deadly bacteria aside, I think it’s kind of cool when we rediscover an ancient technique or invention that’s better than what we use now. This morning, I woke to this awesome article on how the formula for Roman concrete’s been rediscovered, and it licks our puny modern concrete soundly.

Can you think of any other examples of ancient technology that’s yet to be topped to this day?

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