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The Extra Pounds You Can't Afford to Lose: An Interview With Microbiologist Margaret McFall-Ngai

Recent revelations about our microscopic partners and tenants are numerically startling, if not downright existential. Try these for starters: Most of the cells within your body are not human cells, and you are literally teeming with pounds of busy microbes, working to earn their keep while you scan a blog post.

As a physicist, this emerging picture was new to me, but I've had some expert help to digest it now (bacterial pun intended).

Last month, the Human Microbiome Project announced the first comprehensive results of four years of study, revealing details of the trillions of bacteria that coexist on us and within us. To some non-biologists like myself, seeing humans as consortia of many different species is new territory. I had the great fortune of meeting Professor Margaret McFall-Ngai of the University of Wisconsin, as she was in San Francisco several weeks ago to chair a major meeting of the American Society of Microbiology. She agreed to continue my microbiosphere lesson in the blogosphere.

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