I always find it very funny and somewhat very strange how certain instruments have the tendency to behave differently from one day to another. After two weeks of sampling and filtering water I have almost started to believe that our pumps have what some will call artificial intelligence. We have seven lines of filtration, six going through a single multi-channel pump and the seventh line goes through a separate single pump. This way we filter mesocsoms the seven we chose to concentrate on in our metagenomic study at the same time and try to avoid the bias that is often related to the time that elapse from the actual Mesocosm sampling and the time it takes to filter the water and store the filters in the-80C fridge. It is important to treat all seven mesocosms in the same way and a crucial step in our experimental procedure is to quickly filter the first few hundreds of millilitres of water from each Mesocosm at the same time. This is because RNA, which is one of the things we are looking for in our filters, is stable only for short periods of time once it is outside its natural system
But the filtration experience changes every time even though the filters we use are the same filters, the pumps are the same pumps, and the pumping speed and pressure we use are therefore the same. Some lines go faster than others and this is probably due to some unknown natural to us aspects of the mechanical pump. For instance line number 1 is the slowest, whilst line number 6 on the same pump is the fastest. But this is not constant and for some reason the situation often changes and we see the opposite. Thank god that the separate line, number 7 has been a good worker and so far has not presented any particular moods. So the question is why do some lines “decide” to have a lazy day one day and then work harder in the next. Could it actually be that they too just like us the operators need a day off every once and again and decide to misbehave? I must admit that as a scientist I do not like that explanation. Machines are our tools and their sole purpose is to make our life easier. Therefore, we gathered our big brains and tried to think of a different explanation.
As the experiment progresses we expect to see some differences between Mesocosm one to another. One of the aims of the experiment is to see how different CO2 concentrations affect the biological productivity of the water. In other words will there be fewer or more organisms with different CO2 various levels and how these organisms will be. So one possible explanation is that due to the different treatments of each Mesocosm, the density of the organisms per millilitre of seawater each differs from one to another Mesocosm. Single celled organisms in addition such as bacteria and phytoplankton self replicate and this takes time. With their numbers in the replication Mesocosm increases. However we can not tell at the moment how nearly they replicate and what the effect of the added CO2 on this process is. Therefore some mesocosms might be denser and more packed with organisms than others and this can explain why now some lines on our pumps work faster than others and why their behavior is different than what we observed at the beginning of the experiment. Naturally our filters will clog faster and the time it takes to filter the same volume of water will increase as the experiment progresses. I expect to even worse behavior of our pumps once they add nutrients into the mesocosms. These nutrients will increase the productivity of the water and as a result our filtration will go even slower.
So in conclusion, although I was a science fiction geek long before I came into science I am more inclined to accept the logical explanation for the phenomena our brains came up with. I do not believe that our pumps show evidence of artificial intelligence. They are not advanced enough and have not evolved to that level yet. We will have to wait patiently till the end of the experiment and even much longer for our filters to be analyzed in order to be able to give a real answer to why our pumps behave the way they do.
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