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Purpose of Appendix Believed Found

CowboyNeal posted about 7 years ago | from the still-at-the-back-of-the-book dept.

Biotech 235

CambodiaSam sent in this story, which opens: "Some scientists think they have figured out the real job of the troublesome and seemingly useless appendix: It produces and protects good germs for your gut. That's the theory from surgeons and immunologists at Duke University Medical School, published online in a scientific journal this week. For generations the appendix has been dismissed as superfluous. Doctors figured it had no function. Surgeons removed them routinely. People live fine without them. The function of the appendix seems related to the massive amount of bacteria populating the human digestive system, according to the study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology. There are more bacteria than human cells in the typical body. Most are good and help digest food. But sometimes the flora of bacteria in the intestines die or are purged. Diseases such as cholera or amoebic dysentery would clear the gut of useful bacteria. The appendix's job is to reboot the digestive system in that case."

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Polio, Asthma & Allergies (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 7 years ago | (#20879601)

I have studied little biology or medical subjects though I've read studies about this same sort of thing happening with asthma, polio [wikipedia.org] & allergies. I think I've posted about this before but anecdotally I noticed there were no farmers who had allergies or asthma as I grew up and worked on farms with them. The young kids would play in hay and run around in the mud outside when it rained. So it seems that a problem with being an overly hygienic society today (as the article notes) is that we don't expose our young to these pathogens early on so they never adapt to them and suffer exposure to them later. This is why I recommend against anyone installing an air purifier in their home. It's a great idea--if you never plan on leaving your home.

I can't find the research but I thought a long time ago that a German study was done to find out why polio was "a middle class disease." If I recall they found that poor children were exposed to it since birth and rarely suffered from it since they were exposed to it always. The middle class children would be protected as infants but once exposed to it, their bodies would not be able to fight it. The upper class would take all costs to reduce exposure to it at all times--and they could.

Now this research is interestingly related in that appendicitis may be something that occurs due to our lack of exposure to diseases that destroy all the germs in our body (cholera & certain types of dysentery). Should something happen that would threaten this, our bodies respond poorly to it and the appendix flares up. As this article notes, appendicitis occurs less frequently in underdeveloped countries. Perhaps this is more reinforcement for the idea that protecting your children from germs is a double edged sword.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (5, Insightful)

paleo2002 (1079697) | about 7 years ago | (#20879693)

I have studied (some) biology, especially from an evolutionary perspective. There are aspects of our immune system that deal with macroscopic threats - parasites, foreign bodies, etc. In modern, industrialized society intestinal parasites and unremoved splinters aren't really a problem so a part of our immune system is left with very little to do. Like a bored child or pet, our immune system goes looking for something to do. It overreacts to pollen, proteins in common foods, and animal dander.

With the proliferation of antibacterial products, I worry about two things. In the short term, what kind of new allergies will people develop as chemistry continues to replace people's immune systems? In the long term, what kind of backlash are we going to see when microbes begin to develop some sort of resistance to alcohol and other antibacterial agents?

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (2, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 7 years ago | (#20879755)

With the proliferation of antibacterial products, I worry about two things. In the short term, what kind of new allergies will people develop as chemistry continues to replace people's immune systems? In the long term, what kind of backlash are we going to see when microbes begin to develop some sort of resistance to alcohol and other antibacterial agents?
Precisely the idea behind a story [slashdot.org] I submitted a while ago cautioning the use of antibacterial soap--especially since the truth is it does little or nothing more than regular soap.

I could spout more of my fears of an overly medicated, overly hygienic society but my neck is really sore from the tinfoil fortress atop my head. :-) Well, at least I still have my freedom of choice not to take Tylenol when I have a headache, a glass of scotch usually fixes it better anyways.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (1)

WilliamSChips (793741) | about 7 years ago | (#20880743)

And I'm glad that I can take ibuprofen, what with being not old enough(and not willing, for that matter) to drink scotch...

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (5, Informative)

NotoriousHood (970422) | about 7 years ago | (#20879883)

I was also worried about bacteria adapting to alcohol etc.

From my research and discussions with doctors etc I've come to learn that bacteria adapt to antibiotics because these agents are very precise and destroy a very narrow type of microorganism, whereas alcohol, chlorine bleach, and all other cleaning agents wipe everything out. There has been no (to my knowledge) increase in resistance to bleach used in the kitchen for instance. It would be like gaining resistance to fire. The properties of these antibacterial agents is just too violent against the cell for evolution to do anything about it.

I'm sure this could have been said better, but basically antibacterial soap will not create super-deadly strains of bacteria, whereas continued use of antibiotics has and will.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (4, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#20880025)

> "I was also worried about bacteria adapting to alcohol etc. "

... they do ... where do you think all those ugly bacteria come from? Bacteria in bars, seeing other bacteria through beer-bottle goggles, breeding, then trying to gnaw their cilia off the next morning because their mate is coyote-ugly ...

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (4, Interesting)

JanneM (7445) | about 7 years ago | (#20880243)

It's a little trickier than that. It is clear life in general is very good at adapting to just about anything; there's been experiments done where microorganisms have ben pressured to adapt to conditions no less bad than bleach. But a lot of people forget that most adaptations also have negative effects. And if the bad condition is rare enough then it may simply not be worth it, evolutionary speaking, to adapt to it.

There's a beetle on the British isles that lays its eggs in shallow water. So the female flies around, looking for small water collections (small lakes, ponds, that sort of thing) in which to lay her eggs. But her detection system is simplistic, mainly looking for ground surfaces of a certain size that polarize light. And that includes stuff like wet asphalt and newly washed cars. So there's a lot of beetles diving right into newly clean cars, making a mess at the very least opportune moment.

But even without cars and asphalt, it's pretty clear her detection system is on the rough side. The reason they don't have better "pond detectors" is most likely that the current one is good enough; a lot of the beetles do hit good water, and a more complex system would penalize the individuals with it (in energy and development time as juveniles if nothing else) more than they'd gain by being more precise with their egg-laying attempts.

Similarly, from a bacterias point of view, a disinfected surface is rare - really rare. Any adaptation to in with even a slightly negative side effect is likely to disappear unless the individuals and their offspring can rely on staying in that environment for a long time, making it a separate niche. Which they can't since a disinfected surface normally doesn't stay that way. There is no long-term survival benefit in being good at surviving that environment.

This is why cutting down on antibiotic use would not just slow down resistance, but can actually reverse it. Make the antibiotic rare enough and resistance genes won't remain.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (1)

E++99 (880734) | about 7 years ago | (#20880667)

I think that depends. If bacterial resistance to antibiotics amounted simply to some one-time mutation of a protein into a new form, I don't see any reason to suspect that that is going to mutate back. OTOH, if the resistance required a configuration with lower entropy than the non-resistance, like say a NEW protein that must be manufactured, then that would be expected to reverse itself if no longer needed.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (3, Informative)

Lurker2288 (995635) | about 7 years ago | (#20880661)

It's more a function of the fact that antibiotics attack a very definite metabolic activity that's vital for the bacterium to survive. The beta-lactams (think penicillin) interfere with the production of the peptidoglycan cell wall, whereas others interfere with bacterial protein synthesis. So, if the cell can come up with something to negate this attack (pumping the antibiotic out before it can do any damage, producing a protein that neutralizes the antibiotic) then it becomes resistant. On the contrary, something like bleach or alcohol massively disrupts the cell and kills it in a variety of ways all at once.

I like your fire analogy, though. Very apt.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (4, Funny)

jez9999 (618189) | about 7 years ago | (#20880721)

There has been no (to my knowledge) increase in resistance to bleach used in the kitchen for instance. It would be like gaining resistance to fire. The properties of these antibacterial agents is just too violent against the cell for evolution to do anything about it.

That's exactly why I clean my hands by setting them on fire. Anything left after it's been put out can stay.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (2, Interesting)

tmosley (996283) | about 7 years ago | (#20880311)

Bacteria can't develop resistance to alcohol without becoming something other than bacteria. If they could, humanity would never have become civilized. Much of the problem with living together in large communities is finding clean water. The easiest way to turn infested water into something you can drink is by fermenting it into an alcoholic beverage. Other antibiotics are more prone to causing immunity, as they attack specific proteins and such, tearing the membrane open. Ethanol just penetrates the membrane and changes the characteristics of the cellular medium, killing the cell.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20879935)

>> but anecdotally I noticed there were no farmers who had allergies or asthma as I grew up and worked on farms with them. The young kids would play in hay and run around in the mud outside when it rained.

It may be a mixture of genetics and "survival of the fittest" - most allergies are inheritable (many are only inheritable), and as you can imagine, someone who suffers from various environmental allergies would not want/be able to stay in the environment that makes them suffer.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20879981)

I grew up on a farm. My cousin lived right next to us, but not on a farm. His grandfather was a farmer and his parents also kept horses. He did not grow up in a sterile environment any more than I did. He had asthma. No one in my family did.

No one in my family smoked (well, my father quit once he started having kids). My cousin's parents smoked.

Just more anecdotal worthless evidence.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 7 years ago | (#20880075)

Just more anecdotal worthless evidence.
Oh, thank you sir! I now have ... let's see here, one ... two ... TWO data points to build my research around. Things are going swimmingly.

I'll be taking the well known "global warming" approach where I already know what is going to prove with my research so your data point will have to be either an anomaly or possibly tweaked. I may have to remove a word from your testimony and replace "not" with "..." but I do thank you. I am well on my way of utilizing the corporate scientific method!

1. Conduct 'research' proving people should not protect their children from dust and viruses.
2. Patent dust/virus concoctions in spray bottle to be applied daily to humans in the pupae stage.
3. ???
4. Profit!!!! (Virodust® bottle sales, maybe hospital kickbacks?)

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (1)

Original Replica (908688) | about 7 years ago | (#20880611)

Oh, thank you sir! I now have ... let's see here, one ... two ... TWO data points to build my research around.

No you now have an additional piece of evidence that don't fit nicely with your earlier hypothesis. It also suggests that airborne pollutants like smoke might weigh more heavily in asthma than kids being exposed to germs. Just because the GP offers something that doesn't whole heartedly support your +5 theory doesn't mean you have to turn into a snarky jackass.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (1)

WilliamSChips (793741) | about 7 years ago | (#20880761)

I'll be taking the well known "global warming" approach where I already know what is going to prove with my research so your data point will have to be either an anomaly or possibly tweaked.
You mean the one where all the controversy is created by the media?

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (5, Interesting)

king-manic (409855) | about 7 years ago | (#20880079)

I have studied little biology or medical subjects though I've read studies about this same sort of thing happening with asthma, polio & allergies. I think I've posted about this before but anecdotally I noticed there were no farmers who had allergies or asthma as I grew up and worked on farms with them. The young kids would play in hay and run around in the mud outside when it rained. So it seems that a problem with being an overly hygienic society today (as the article notes) is that we don't expose our young to these pathogens early on so they never adapt to them and suffer exposure to them later. This is why I recommend against anyone installing an air purifier in their home. It's a great idea--if you never plan on leaving your home.

I can't find the research but I thought a long time ago that a German study was done to find out why polio was "a middle class disease." If I recall they found that poor children were exposed to it since birth and rarely suffered from it since they were exposed to it always. The middle class children would be protected as infants but once exposed to it, their bodies would not be able to fight it. The upper class would take all costs to reduce exposure to it at all times--and they could.

Now this research is interestingly related in that appendicitis may be something that occurs due to our lack of exposure to diseases that destroy all the germs in our body (cholera & certain types of dysentery). Should something happen that would threaten this, our bodies respond poorly to it and the appendix flares up. As this article notes, appendicitis occurs less frequently in underdeveloped countries. Perhaps this is more reinforcement for the idea that protecting your children from germs is a double edged sword.


The other way to interpret it is that people with severe allergies and who would suffer from polio are exposed to it early and die. As most of the groups outlined have higher infant mortality. It may not be a full explanation but it's certainly a contributing factor. From a evolutionary standpoint those who would have died from allergies/polio/germs due to a weaker system survive in "middle class" society and thus what is rare among the lower class amplifies overtime in the middle class until it reaches soem steady state %.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (1)

wikinerd (809585) | about 7 years ago | (#20880129)

So it seems that a problem with being an overly hygienic society today ... we don't expose our young to these pathogens early on so they never adapt to them and suffer exposure to them later

That's true - and I believe that in the future (rich) people will be paying for training their immune systems, just like they do now by paying for going to the gym,

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (1)

Voltageaav (798022) | about 7 years ago | (#20880355)

They already have allergy treatments. Basically, they give you a shot every few months. Now they're just waiting for the technology that allows you to work out in your sleep.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (4, Informative)

scottv67 (731709) | about 7 years ago | (#20880767)

They already have allergy treatments. Basically, they give you a shot every few months.

If you are talking about immunotherapy for the treatment of allergies, the frequency of the injections is more than "every few months". It's more like "once a week". The injections provide an ever-increasing amount of the substance the patient is allergic to in an effort to get the patient's immune system to "chill out". The last time I was receiving these shots, I was getting them every five days (Mon, Fri, Wed, Mon, Fri, etc.). I spent a lot of time sitting in the waiting room at the allergy clinic (you have to sit in the clinic after receiving the shot so the clinic staff can monitor you for an adverse reaction to the shot).

http://www.allergycapital.com.au/Pages/immth.html [allergycapital.com.au]

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (1)

Sosarian (39969) | about 7 years ago | (#20880273)

Your allergy comments are interesting, but polio is still with us ravaging people in some of the poorest places in the world.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (1)

nwbvt (768631) | about 7 years ago | (#20880507)

Except more people in the world die of germs than they do of things like appendicitis. In those underdeveloped countries you mention, its not uncommon for people to die of those diseases we are sheltered against. The concept of the vast majority of children surviving into and beyond adulthood is a rather new one and pretty much only present in developed countries.

Yes, there may be some negatives from living a life sheltered from disease, but the net benefit is obviously good.

Re:Polio, Asthma & Allergies (5, Informative)

scottv67 (731709) | about 7 years ago | (#20880685)

I think I've posted about this before but anecdotally I noticed there were no farmers who had allergies or asthma as I grew up and worked on farms with them.

I think you may have it backwards: You are saying that there are no farmers with asthma because working on a farm prevents asthma. It's more likely that there are no farmers with asthma because people with asthma do not become farmers. Even though I (someone who has had asthma my entire life) have helped bale hay, milk cows and shovel manure, there is no way that I would *think* of becoming a farmer. Wearing a dust mask while baling hay or doing other chores on the farm is no fun. Being in the barn without some sort of mask is a surefire recipe for having a meeting with Mr. Albuterol later in the day.

I could come-up with a parallel to your "I've never known farmers with asthma" story by saying "I've never seen a one-armed crab fisherman on the Discovery TV show "Deadliest Catch". I could infer from watch the Deadliest Catch that crab fishing must be a pretty safe line of work because there are no one-armed guys working the crab pots. The reality is there are no one-armed crab fisherman because the one-armed guys do not sign-up for a job that they know would be extremely hazardous for them to do with just one arm.

This is why I recommend against anyone installing an air purifier in their home. It's a great idea--if you never plan on leaving your home.

I'm sorry, I didn't catch the name of the medical school you graduated from or where you did your residency in allergy/asthma. Could you post that information one more time? I have an IQAir HealthPro Plus http://www.iqair.us/residential/roomairpurifiers/healthproplus.php [iqair.us] that runs in my bedroom every night. That air purifier filters the dust, pollen and other allergens out of air inside my house so that I can breathe more easily - especially during the spring and fall when thing like tree pollen, ragweed and alternaria are bad. The indoor air purifiers also help when local "air quality alerts" are issued. Even if the air outside is filled with small pollutants that are harmful to my lungs, I can come home at the end of the day, run the IQAir and have decent breathable air.

Here is a little more background on local air quality issues:
http://dnr.wi.gov/org/aw/air/health/status.asp [wi.gov]

The watch is being issued because of the forecast for elevated levels of fine particles in the air. Fine particle pollution is composed of microscopic dust, soot, liquid droplets and smoke particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller. These fine particles come primarily from combustion sources, such as power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and outdoor fires.

The Air Quality Index is forecast to reach the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. People in those sensitive groups include those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children. When an air quality watch is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities during the watch period.

People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure.

Regarding your comment about air purifiers being a bad idea,

It's a great idea--if you never plan on leaving your home.
I can't really say that I agree that my asthma was caused my parents keeping a house that was too clean. My parents both smoked when I was young and also used a wood-burning furnace to heat the house. I played outside a lot when I was younger and was exposed to all the dirt and germs that are available outdoors. The sensitivity of my immune system and my respiratory system has nothing to do with where I grew up or whether or not my parents kept a clean house. I was *born* this way. My problem is genetic. If using an indoor air purifier makes it easier for me to breathe (especially on days when pollen is heavy or the DNR issues an air quality alert for this corner of the state), then I see nothing wrong with running the air purifier. If I had children, I would not turn the air purifier off, open the windows and flood the house with pollen or small air pollutant particles just because I wanted to "build-up their immune systems."

Your comments about "Well, I never met any farmers with asthma so farm chores prevent asthma" and "air purifiers are the devil's work" just don't hold water with me.

So we're all scumbags .. (-1, Flamebait)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#20879613)

"There are more bacteria than human cells in the typical body."

So, by the numbers, we're all mostly bags to hold pond scum.

... except for George Bush - he's a LYING scumbag.

Re:So we're all scumbags .. (1)

Kenji DRE (1020807) | about 7 years ago | (#20879823)

"There are more bacteria than human cells in the typical body."
I too was wondering what exactly does that mean.

Re:So we're all scumbags .. (3, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#20879983)

Well, bacteria are the most populous living organisms in the world, and they're developing resistance to all our antibiotics, so its only a matter of time before we see stuff like ...:

[_] I for one welcome our bacterial scum pond overlords
[_] I have no intestine, you ignorant clod scumbag!
[_] Imagine a beowulf cluster of ... oh, they're ALREADY a cluster ... and drug resistant - I guess we're cluster-f$cked!
[_] All your base nucleotides belong to us
[_] In Soviet Russia antibiotics kill YOU!

Mind you, we're talking about a culture that still insists on doctor-shopping to get antibiotics for viral infections, and over-indulges in anti-bacterial wipes, plastics, etc., to the point of both compromising our own immune systems, and breeding super-bugs.

Re:So we're all scumbags .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20880425)

Mind you, we're talking about a culture that still insists on doctor-shopping to get antibiotics for viral infections, and over-indulges in anti-bacterial wipes, plastics, etc., to the point of both compromising our own immune systems, and breeding super-bugs.

but at least they'll be American Super-Bugs.

Re:So we're all scumbags .. (1)

Fieryphoenix (1161565) | about 7 years ago | (#20880145)

It means that human cells are far larger than bacterial cells. Think whale vs. ant.

Paper Abstract (5, Informative)

nodrogluap (165820) | about 7 years ago | (#20879615)

The abstract, for those who don't have access to the journal (article DOI doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2007.08.032):

The human vermiform ("worm-like") appendix is a 5 to 10 cm long and 0.5 to 1
cm wide pouch that extends from the cecum of the large bowel. The architecture of the
human appendix is unique among mammals, and few mammals other than humans have
an appendix at all. The function of the human appendix has long been a matter of debate,
with the structure often considered to be a vestige of evolutionary development despite
evidence to the contrary based on comparative primate anatomy. The appendix is thought
to have some immune function based on its association with substantial lymphatic tissue,
although the specific nature of that putative function is unknown. Based (a) on a recently
acquired understanding of immune-mediated biofilm formation by commensal bacteria in
the mammalian gut, (b) on biofilm distribution in the large bowel, (c) the association of
lymphoid tissue with the appendix, (d) the potential for biofilms to protect and support
colonization by commensal bacteria, and (e) on the architecture of the human bowel, we
propose that the human appendix is well suited as a "safe house" for commensal bacteria,
providing support for bacterial growth and potentially facilitating re-inoculation of the
colon in the event that the contents of the intestinal tract are purged following exposure to a pathogen.

Reboot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20879625)

Is the digestive system a computer?

Re:Reboot? (1)

nodrogluap (165820) | about 7 years ago | (#20879665)

The abstract says "re-inoculate", but CNN has to appeal to the non-technical (in a scientific sense). At least they got the story mostly right, which doesn't always happen with science headlines...

Re:Reboot? (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 7 years ago | (#20879699)

Is the digestive system a computer?
Perhaps a better term might be 'repopulate' although it doesn't sound as trendy.

I suppose you could poke equally as much fun back at the computer science community with:

Virus? Is a computer the immune system?
Fields of science borrow and share terms all the time. People seem to like the term 'reboot' despite it's origins being found in computers [wikipedia.org] . I myself sometimes forget the pure origin of the word. The 'boot' part being from the bootloader of a system which plays a vital role in the bootstrapping process prior to the start of the operating system (if there is one installed). Do you think tailors are annoyed that we stole their bootstrap word?

Why nitpick terminology when everyone borrows it. Accept descriptive words, don't be prescriptive--I think that's what makes languages fun and interesting instead of boring, dry & dead.

Re:Reboot? (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 7 years ago | (#20879941)

I myself sometimes forget the pure origin of the word. The 'boot' part being from the bootloader of a system which plays a vital role in the bootstrapping process prior to the start of the operating system (if there is one installed). Do you think tailors are annoyed that we stole their bootstrap word?
Apparently you have forgotten the pure origin of the word. It comes from a fairy tale (from which a Heinlein story also gets its name) where the protagonist escapes from a hole by lifting himself up by his bootstraps.

When a computer is turned on, it needs to load some code to run. In order to do this, it needs some code to tell it which code to load. In order to load that code, it needs some code to tell it what to load, and so on. The solution is to have the computer metaphorically pick itself up by its bootstraps to get the first bit loaded. The code it then runs became known as the bootstrap, and later the term was corrupted to boot loader, and other variations.

Re:Reboot? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#20880067)

"The solution is to have the computer metaphorically pick itself up by its bootstraps to get the first bit loaded. "

It was always a poor metaphor.

The reality is that once the cpu is initialized, it executes whatever code is found at a fixed, hard-coded address. That's not "lifting yourself up by your bootstraps."

Pul the cpu and ram out and you'll see nothing happens. No bios initialization, no post, etc.

Re:Reboot? (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 7 years ago | (#20880199)

The metaphor predates CPUs by a good few decades. The machines for which the concept was invented were very early stored program computers. Originally, computers had their software hard-wired, and running a new program meant rewiring the computer. The next generation, starting with the Manchester Baby, stored their programs in the same way as they stored data and so encountered the problem of bootstrapping since they no longer had a hard-coded program. They had to have a simple program hard coded that would allow them to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and load the stored program. By the time microprocessors and things like the x86 BIOS were around the term was already old.

Re:Reboot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20879957)

Well 'reboot' itself just means to boot up again. But why use the word 'boot', instead of start. I mean think about it, what is the etymology here?

It has it's origins in 'bootstrapping' which the computer folk borrowed from elsewhere.

Re:Reboot? (1)

eod_punk (832062) | about 7 years ago | (#20880115)

The digestive version of Ctrl+Alt+Delete.

Re:Reboot? (1)

SnowZero (92219) | about 7 years ago | (#20880747)

I never before thought of Alt-Ctl-Del as a metaphor for Cholera. I like Windows even less now...

Does that mean... (1)

cronot (530669) | about 7 years ago | (#20879649)

... that someone that has the appendix removed and has a case of amoebic dysentery may die of it?

Re:Does that mean... (1)

Spacejock (727523) | about 7 years ago | (#20880143)

According to the article (I know, I know...) in modern society we just pick up the germs we need from other people. That wasn't an option in sparsely-populated times.

complete lie (2, Informative)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | about 7 years ago | (#20879651)

Well it must not do that because long story short, a similar thing happened to me and I had to take pills full of "hibernating" bacteria to replace them because they weren't coming back. I remember learning in school that it used to be used to handle indigestible things like tree bark and whatever else dumb cavemen ate lol. But then people stopped being so dumb and ate good, clean stuff so people who were born with non-working appendixes lived and eventually I guess overtook the ones with working ones.

Obligatory (2, Funny)

onosson (1107107) | about 7 years ago | (#20879673)

I, for one, welcome our bacteria-breeding appendix overlords.

Initial configuration... (1)

Empiric (675968) | about 7 years ago | (#20879689)

Rebooting appendixes and DHCP neurons? [arstechnica.com]

Neat.

Evolution would have gotten rid of it (1)

zukinux (1094199) | about 7 years ago | (#20879705)

Evolution would have gotten rid of it if this part were useless.
There are some parts we don't know of its parts, but still are not useless. Evolution/God does their work quite well I guess.

Re:Evolution would have gotten rid of it (2, Insightful)

Belacgod (1103921) | about 7 years ago | (#20879849)

Incorrect. Evolution would have got rid of it if it was actively detrimental. The human body has plenty of useless-but-neutral features--earlobes, for one--that won't go away.

Evolution doesn't approach the best solution, just the solution that's better than the others in existence at the time.

Re:Evolution would have gotten rid of it (3, Funny)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | about 7 years ago | (#20879915)

The human body has plenty of useless-but-neutral features--earlobes, for one
Boy will they laugh at you in 100 years time when earlobes are revealed to have a very important function. Has this article taught you nothing?

Re:Evolution would have gotten rid of it (4, Funny)

Spacejock (727523) | about 7 years ago | (#20880183)

Of course earlobes are useful. I mean, what else could you possibly hang earrings off ... your privates?

Re:Evolution would have gotten rid of it (1)

foobsr (693224) | about 7 years ago | (#20880383)

The human body has plenty of useless-but-neutral features--earlobes

Subject to gravity, they give you (additional) information relating to posture/acceleration if you are not an insensitive clod.

CC.

Re:Evolution would have gotten rid of it (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 7 years ago | (#20880437)

Evolution will drop useless parts as well, just not as quickly since it doesnt effect survival at the time. ( where it may have at some point in the past ). Remember too, mating rituals are part of survival. Often in the animal kindgom if you arent as pretty as the competition you cease to contribute to the gene pool. Lobes and other apparent useless-but-neutral features may have been a 'pretty' factor 10 thousand years ago for us.

And since evolution never stops, you cant really predict when something like earlobs will disappear. It just hasn't happened YET.

Re:Evolution would have gotten rid of it (2, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#20879869)

>"Evolution would have gotten rid of it if this part were useless."

Evolution takes time. Hence the darwin awards [darwinawards.com]

Also, its a "moving target", since evolution alters the environment (predators, food chain, etc.), one consequence is the current "solution" is always sub-prime.

Re:Evolution would have gotten rid of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20879889)

-1 Poor Understanding of the Evolutionary Process

Evolution only gets rid of things which are detrimental to the reproduction of the species, and only if it is either:
A) Trivial to remove through a small number of mutations
B) Over an incredibly long period of time

As long as the appendix isn't causing a significant impediment to the survival of the species (and no, a small number of cases of appendicitis don't count within a fairly huge population), it's not going to go away.

Re:Evolution would have gotten rid of it (4, Informative)

pla (258480) | about 7 years ago | (#20879979)

Evolution would have gotten rid of it if this part were useless.

No. Evolution would have gotten rid of it if it caused a net increase in the risk of death between menarche and menopause (males simply don't matter here).

Now, we might presume at first glance that since appendicitis can kill, and a not-inconsiderable portion of the population will at some point get it. But the lower incidence in underdeveloped countries suggests that its modern danger to us may result largely from lifestyle; and, as we currently chop it out at the first sign of inflammation, we may also overstate the actual risk of death from appendicitis in the absence of treatment.



Evolution/God does their work quite well I guess.

You can believe what you want about a deity, and what mechanisms it put into place to run the universe. But beware of animism by ascribing "intent" to abstract statistical descriptions of phenomena.

Re: Evolution would have gotten rid of it (5, Informative)

Polemicist (1166967) | about 7 years ago | (#20879995)

Evolution would have gotten rid of it if this part were useless.


It is not exactly true that evolution would get rid of a part that has become useless. Evolution through natural selection would tend to remove mainly deleterous (harmful) structures, but structures that are neither harmful nor helpful are masked from natural selection. To explain the loss of the vestigial structures, we must realize that the individual organism has only so many resources (energy, molecules, etc) with which to survive. This causes natural selection to select against structures that use up the organism's resources without contributing to its survival (for example in whales, who still have vestigial hips and leg bones, which serve no function and are much reduced in size).

This leads to the question of why the structure is still present. There are two major reasons why we would still observe the structure today: time and cost.

If natural selection only started working on removing the structure in recent time (geologically speaking), it would not be finished instantly in one generation, as natural selection works by tiny modifications that are build on generation after generation. Hence the canon of natural history: Natura non facit saltum (nature makes no leap).

A second possibility for its continued presence is that further reduction in its size or its total absence would be more disadvantageous the organism's fitness than its presence. This seems to be what the study is suggesting, that even though it is not used to the full extent it once was, there is some tiny function that is still useful enough to justify the resources the organism spends on it.

Re:Evolution would have gotten rid of it (1)

m50d (797211) | about 7 years ago | (#20880385)

Not true, the obvious counterexample being the tailbone. Evolution only gets rid of useless things if they present a significant impediment to survival.

Re:Evolution would have gotten rid of it (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 7 years ago | (#20880539)

Actually, this just goes to show you can draw any conclusions you want with any fact you want.

When I was in high school, I remember our science teacher talking about this. Since the appendix doesn't do anything it is a vestigial organ. Why would God give us an organ that doesn't do anything. This fact disproved God. In fact, he argued, evolution is the only mechanism that would produce vestigial organs, and in fact evolution PROVES that there must be vestigial organs left over after changes in biology cause some organs to lose their purpose.

I wonder if he has gotten religion since then.

mixup (1)

Tim4444 (1122173) | about 7 years ago | (#20879723)

oops, i read that as book appendix. "Why, it's the place to put all the content of your book without the fluff..."

I had always heard that the appendix helps with the digestion of raw meat which is just superfluous now that we have fire.

the purpose of the appendix (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20879751)

On the evening of the sixth day of creation, God had an argument with his editors about what to do with some material that all agreed was clever but not an especially great fit. So they decided to move it to the appendix.

Ah Slashdot (0)

cabjf (710106) | about 7 years ago | (#20879753)

The appendix's job is to reboot the digestive system in that case.
Where everything is compared to either a car or a computer.

System reboot: continue? (5, Funny)

lpangelrob (714473) | about 7 years ago | (#20879777)

The appendix's job is to reboot the digestive system in that case.

Gives a new meaning to the term "stack dump". I myself am currently suffering from a stop error. :-(

Re:System reboot: continue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20880519)

Gives a new meaning to the term "stack dump". I myself am currently suffering from a stop error. :-(

That may be too much information.

"produces" (5, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 7 years ago | (#20879779)

Just like leaving meat out in the sun "produces" flies? Didn't we sort all this out back in the 17th century or whatever? Oh wait, its CNN, that paragon of quality journalism.

It doesn't PRODUCE the bacteria (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20879799)

It gives them a place to hideout if the mainline flora gets killed off.

Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (1, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 7 years ago | (#20879813)

is coming. Never mind ID did not predict any specific design intent about appendix other than, "we are designed, so there must be some use for all the useless organs". But that won't stop them from predicting immediate demise of Darwinian evolution.

Re:Brace yourselves people, evolutionist onslaught (1)

Trelane, the Squire (608266) | about 7 years ago | (#20879911)

heh, and here I was about to say that here was where the evolutionists would start hemming and hawing about how they've been using the appendix as proof, because an intelligent designer wouldn't put in a useless organ. unfortunately I think both of us are right, there is about to be a creationist and evolutionist onslaught for the same (but different) reasons

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | about 7 years ago | (#20879925)

is coming. Never mind ID did not predict any specific design intent about appendix other than, "we are designed, so there must be some use for all the useless organs". But that won't stop them from predicting immediate demise of Darwinian evolution.

They can't use this to push ID since it's a straw man argument. Evolution never suggested or required that appendix doesn't have a role in our body, or never had one.

You can hear poor religious folk and poor scientists use it in their arguments, but in such a polarized issue, you'll find stupid people and poor arguments on both sides, negative proof is another form of logical fallacy that can't be used to prove an opposing theory.

In other words, "someone said appendix is useless because of evolution, this mean ID is correct" is nonsense.

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (1)

E++99 (880734) | about 7 years ago | (#20880441)

In other words, "someone said appendix is useless because of evolution, this mean ID is correct" is nonsense.

Sure. However, when a theory gives rise to predictions that turn out to be false, that certainly undermines that theory. One of the most heard predictions of neodarwinism, at least as understood by the masses, is that the appendix is vestigal. This study, along with the other studies it references, to my mind constitutes adequate proof that the appendix is NOT vestigal. Therefore neodariwnism, at least as understood by the masses, is a highly flawed theory.

All this obviously says nothing whatsoever about ID or creationism.

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | about 7 years ago | (#20880653)

Sure. However, when a theory gives rise to predictions that turn out to be false, that certainly undermines that theory. One of the most heard predictions of neodarwinism, at least as understood by the masses, is that the appendix is vestigal. This study, along with the other studies it references, to my mind constitutes adequate proof that the appendix is NOT vestigal. Therefore neodariwnism, at least as understood by the masses, is a highly flawed theory.

All this obviously says nothing whatsoever about ID or creationism.


Neodawinism suggest vestigal organs may exist in an organism. It doesn't suggest if we don't know the function of an organ, it's vestigal. You don't interpret this properly.

Plus, this study in fact says this organ played a role before, and in modern society it has no function. Some people are born *without* appendix and live to pass this onto their kids, since appendix is no longer needed organ.

That's evolution right before your eyes.

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20879933)

Don't worry - they still have no way of explaining, in creationist terms, why nerds have reproductive systems. How can such useless organs be explain except as artifacts of evolution?

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20880049)

I dunno about you, but I've found a good use for my "useless" organ...

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20880305)

If you're saying that males don't need to empty their bladders via an external drain pipe attachment, I'll claim that the bottom end of the digestive system is also irrelevant.

^H^H^H^H^H^H^H WAIT!!! I'm wrong.

Unlike reproductive organs, the bottom end of the digestive system is very important to geeks because without it, we wouldn't have thousands of links on slashdot to goatse.

I now understand your logic.

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20879967)

I was going to warn everyone against the onslaught of the atheists and leave religion fervor out of it. but I see you already dragged religion into the scientific discussion and ruined it as much as the creationists do.

Why don't you hate zealots all just back off so us scientific types can talk about it without your evangelism?

you atheists are as bad as or worse than the creationists.

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 7 years ago | (#20880007)

Why do you theists crave the "scientific" label so much? Why do you want to shoehorn the adjective "scientific" to the religious texts? Is it because all the theistic power bases like the church, and the political parties have lost their credibility completely? Is it because only science has some credibility and a track record of delivering progress? And you need to somehow get part of that credibility rub off on you?

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (1)

E++99 (880734) | about 7 years ago | (#20880559)

Why do you theists crave the "scientific" label so much? Why do you want to shoehorn the adjective "scientific" to the religious texts? Is it because all the theistic power bases like the church, and the political parties have lost their credibility completely? Is it because only science has some credibility and a track record of delivering progress? And you need to somehow get part of that credibility rub off on you?

I've never known a theist to crave the "scientific" label. However, most people who are interested in spiritual truth, are also interested in natural truth. People like Newton, who spent more time pursuing spiritual truth than natural truth, still deserve to be called scientists for their work involving natural truth.

It is noteworthy that all attempts so far to link attained spiritual knowledge as leverage for attaining natural knowledge have proven deeply flawed, and those who were successful scientists as well as spiritual seekers, such as Newton, Lemaître, etc., pursued natural truth independently from any spiritual findings.

Suggesting that the religious seek the credibility of the track record of science is silly. The track record of the progress of religion includes the virtual abolishment of the once-ubiquitous practices of infanticide and slavery. The track record of science includes providing intellectual credibility and the color of rationality to the holocaust and communism.

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20880047)

You just posted a hateful bigoted rant about how everyone except you is hateful and bigoted. You're not going to win many followers that way.

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | about 7 years ago | (#20880119)

And why the hell, exactly, did you post this, which is sure to draw the sort of post you named? It's idiotic to say "now people will post this", because you practically guarantee that they'll do so, when they may not have if you hadn't spurred them into posting about it.

Jeez, your post is practically the definition of flamebait, as all it accomplishes is to stir up controversy.

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (1)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | about 7 years ago | (#20880253)

I would just like to point out that yours is the first post that mentions ID, but not the first post by Evolutionists attacking the supposed wave of Creationists arguments (which failed to materialize until lambasted I might add).

Creationists have claimed for a long time that the Appendix has a function, Evolutionists have attacked that claim vigorously, the fact that it seems to have a function is evidence in favor of Creationist arguments primarily as they have been the ones claiming that it has a function. Now of course it's not conclusive in any way shape or form, it just takes away a bit from the anti-creation argument, it doesn't add to the pro-creation argument much at all.

Just because the specifics aren't predicted doesn't mean it's not evidence. I don't seem to recall Newton's theory of gravity predicting the exact gravitational force of the Earth, just that it was there.

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (1)

resonte (900899) | about 7 years ago | (#20880343)

I would argue the opposite. This is a positive discovery for evolution. That the appendix has a function makes more sense than being just being detrimental to health.

Evolution would select out useless body parts unless a sudden change in environment/diet is observed which makes the body part useless/redundant. Such as the rise of human civilisation.

But only a god/gods would create an organ that is useless and has been useless for many many generations of our ancestors. This discounts a sudden change in environment as an explanation, since it should only affect the first few generations.

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (1)

JanneM (7445) | about 7 years ago | (#20880373)

Never mind ID did not predict any specific design intent about appendix other than, "we are designed, so there must be some use for all the useless organs".
Well, as long as they can't give an ID explanation for why they have a frontal cortex they're not off that particular hook in any case.

Re:Brace yourselves people, creationist onslaught (1)

E++99 (880734) | about 7 years ago | (#20880635)

Yeah, well NOW the onslaught is coming... troll! ANTI-religious, ANTI-theist, or ANTI-creationist posts are ALWAYS the first posts to breach these subjects on slashdot. I love the study of both natural and spiritual phenomenon, but I would much rather discuss the findings concerning the functions of the appendix than get goaded into defending my beliefs, or if not goaded myself, have to wade through the bickering of others who have been.

This is Slashdot (1)

stud9920 (236753) | about 7 years ago | (#20879837)

This is Slashdot here. The only purpose of the appendix for most people here is to pee.

What about the Table of Contents? (1)

JackMeyhoff (1070484) | about 7 years ago | (#20879857)

Was I the ONLY person who thought of Book Appendices when I read the title?

From my perspective (3, Funny)

Scrameustache (459504) | about 7 years ago | (#20879899)

The purpose of the appendix to spontaneously kill you in a horribly painful way.
Unless you have access to surgeons. Yay modern medicine!

Re:From my perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20880167)

this is a great comment. how many people's lives are saved by appendix removal? what are the chances of surviving a burst? It's my understanding that when the appendix goes haywire in a kid, it can burst, leading to a massive and potentially fatal abdominal infection...

The true purpose of the appendix (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20879947)

The true purpose of the appendix is to help digest shit-filled nigger flesh.
Do right by your body, do what's natural - kill and eat a nigger today! It's all they're good for anyway.

Support contract (2, Funny)

HangingChad (677530) | about 7 years ago | (#20880045)

The appendix's job is to reboot the digestive system in that case.

So your appendix is run by Microsoft support.

Keeping kids healthy (5, Informative)

throatmonster (147275) | about 7 years ago | (#20880059)

Want to give your offspring the best chance?

1. Breastfeed. Not just for 6 weeks either. Worldwide average weaning age is 3-4yrs. U.S. is about the worst at this.
2. Let your kids eat dirt. No, don't encourage it. Just don't freak when it happens.
3. Be very conservative with immunizations. How many middle class US children are really going to get exposed to Hep? And since thermerisol has finally been removed from vaccination products, the autism rate has finally stopped exploding (despite the fact that studies show no link between the two).
4. LOTS of physical contact! Breastfed babies get this. It stimulates brain development.
5. Love the little knuckleheads despite everything.
6. Learn basic biology and medicine yourself. Your offspring, your responsibility. Knowledge and common sense go a long way towards health.

We're still learning about biology and medicine. Oh shit, you mean bacteria can evolve to become resistant to antibiotics, and that blanketing the population with antibiotics (antibaterical handsoap, anyone?) causes bigger problems than it solves? I've never heard of a staph infection from a home birth. When women give birth at home around all the same germs they are exposed to anyway, postpartum infections are almost nonexistent.

OTOH, I will take exception to the idea that there were no allergies and less sickness among rural populations 2 generations ago. There were. The difference is that those kids were just labeled "sickly" and often died back then. Is it a bad thing that those kids have a chance now?

Re:Keeping kids healthy (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20880723)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism_(incidence) [wikipedia.org] seems to indicate that the US autism rate has continued to rise after the removal of Thimerosal from children's vaccines five years ago. Do you have more recent data?

REAL purpose (1)

VeteranNoob (1160115) | about 7 years ago | (#20880085)

The purpose of the appendix is to flip out and kill people.

Obscure reference [realultimatepower.net] , but couldn't resist.

Appendix is a hint (1)

Kerstyun (832278) | about 7 years ago | (#20880091)

GOD put it thier to disproof everlutions.

another body part that is often yanked (3, Insightful)

Skapare (16644) | about 7 years ago | (#20880159)

From TFA:

The theory led Gary Huffnagle, a University of Michigan internal medicine and microbiology professor, to wonder about the value of another body part that is often yanked: "I'll bet eventually we'll find the same sort of thing with the tonsils."

And what about the foreskin?

Re:another body part that is often yanked (1)

Jimmy King (828214) | about 7 years ago | (#20880471)

I can't tell if that was a circumcision joke or a masturbation joke.

Re:another body part that is often yanked (2, Informative)

JewGold (924683) | about 7 years ago | (#20880525)

The foreskin has a very definite purpose. It keeps the head of the penis protected and moistened: an internal organ as it was designed. Also the foreskin itself contains one of the largest concentration of nerves on the body. These features help with penetration and improve sexual pleasure tremendously.

Outside of some religious circles, the practice of butchering newborns is a very new one. A recent study has shown men who have been butchered have only a fraction of the sexual pleasure as normal, intact men.

Re:another body part that is often yanked (2, Interesting)

jez9999 (618189) | about 7 years ago | (#20880775)

There was also a study showing that foreskin removal lowers the risk of transmitting HIV. It's an unfortunate, but probably correct, fact. I think it should be emphasized that it's not some useless/evil part of the male anatomy, though.

Re:another body part that is often yanked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20880677)

Just because yours is too small to pleasure a woman doesn't mean mine is worthless. I know your mom likes it. :)

Re:another body part that is often yanked (1)

FSWKU (551325) | about 7 years ago | (#20880681)

In that case, I believe "removed" would be a better term, as "yanked" used in relation to that bit of anatomy would simply describe a routine habit of most slashdotters...

Another purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20880251)

of appendix is to produce melatonin.

Well, duh (1)

moosesocks (264553) | about 7 years ago | (#20880367)

We all know that the Appendix is the useful bit at the end of the instruction manual. Heck.... there are often several of them, all labeled in a neat alphabetical order.

And yeah.... if you pour water on it, and set it out in the sun, I'm sure it'll become a haven for bacteria.... but would you really want to do that?

I have something VERY interesting to say (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | about 7 years ago | (#20880393)

If you want to read it, please refer to Appendix A

Re:I have something VERY interesting to say (1)

yanyan (302849) | about 7 years ago | (#20880543)

I swallowed a petrified hot grit that my appendix is too small to contain.
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