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Biologist, Distinguished University Professor, UMass, Amherst; Coauthor (with Dorion Sagan), Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origins of Species

By using the Internet I have renewed or begun new epistolary interactions on a global basis with superb, knowledgeable scientists and historians. The Internet has made quickly available much obscure, scientific literature relevant and invaluable to me. It has generated new colleagues. The luxury (far beyond the usual "he says, she says, they-say gossip") of the Internet leads us (both nearby and geographically distant associates: graduate students, family members, et al.) towards the answer to a key question about the grand sweep of the history of life in its biospheric environment on Planet Earth. (Note: of course our planet is mostly not earth, it ought to be renamed Planet Water or Planet Hard Rock.)

The Internet makes a difference as we zero in toward the final detailed solution of our scientific problem: "How did the ancestral nucleated cell evolve some 1000 million years ago?" (The cells of which all animals, plants, mushrooms and algae etc. are composed.) Everyone agrees this evolutionary turning point, the appearance of animal-type cells in the fossil record happened in the time period the geologists call the Proterozoic Eon)? How?

The short answer is nucleated cells evolved "by promiscuous forbidden sexual fusion among wildly different kinds of bacteria." Alas, our motley collection of fused bacterial ancestors never escaped from their "marriage contract". They survived and still live together with the ups-and-downs of permanent merger.

Probably some bacterial ancestors look back at the period 1000-600 million years ago when both water and air were full of hydrogen sulfide (poisonous to people). Before oxygen bubbled up and its combustion fueled the frenetic rate of environmental degradation that began in the Proterozoic eon and continues until today was "The Age of Bacteria", a calmer, quieter time. Aided and abetted by our very recent (Holocene) loud, careless, ignorant, frantic, clever but unwise, ephemeral human species, the rest of our planetmates have been there before us and will be there when we're gone.

The Internet pushes this notion farther, louder and of course with the velocity of light.