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Microbial Academy of Sciences Turns Cyanobacteria Into Cosmonauts

The universe might be both too large and too small to fully comprehend. But perhaps Earth’s first celestial observatory for single-cell organisms can provide alternative perspectives on cosmology and art.

That’s the thought process of concept philosopher and Wired columnist Jonathon Keats, whose inaugural Microbial Academy of Sciences opens Friday as part of the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery’s Vast and Undetectable exhibit, which examines microscopic and macroscopic spheres in science and sci-fi that resist simple understanding.

“Cyanobacteria are some of the oldest surviving organisms on Earth, successfully adapting to an ever-changing world for more than 3 billion years, while we’ve managed nearly to drive ourselves to extinction in a mere 200 millennia,” the always amiable Keats told Wired.com in an e-mail.

“But in all those eons, bacteria have never been given observatory access, to study the cosmos for themselves,” he added. “Their experience of the universe has always only been at the scale of microns. My observatory is built to address that unfortunate oversight, providing the resources for colonies of bacteria to research a theory of everything, reconciling cosmic and quantum observations in their own bacterial way.”

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