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科学美国人60秒: “Necrobiome”揭示了“尸体”的死亡时间

所属教程:科学美国人60秒科学系列 更新:12-27
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'Necrobiome' Reveals a Corpse's Time of Death

“Necrobiome”揭示了“尸体”的死亡时间

Tens of trillions of microbes call our living bodies home. But when we die? "The first thing that happens is basically ecosystem collapse—where you have a tremendous loss of diversity." Nathan Lents, a molecular biologist at John Jay College in New York. "And then it bottoms out and starts to get rich again."

无数的微生物以我们的身体为家。但是,当我们死了呢?“第一件会发生的事情就是我们体内生态系统的崩溃——数以万计的生物多样性消失”。南森·伦茨是纽约约翰伊森学院的分子生物学家,他还说道“然后微生物的数量降到最低点,之后微生物开始活跃起来。”

That microbial phoenix, rising from our extinguished mortal coils, is called the "necrobiome." Lents and his team tracked the necrobiome, by swabbing the ears and noses of 21 cadavers at a body farm in Tennessee. It's a sort of outdoor lab for forensic scientists, where bodies are left to the elements to decompose.

由于我们的尸体所产生的微生物的高潮,我们称之为“necrobiome”。伦茨和他的团队通过对田纳西州的一个尸体研究所的21具尸体擦拭耳朵和鼻子来跟踪“necrobiome”。 这是一种户外的法医实验室,尸体放在户外由微生物进行分解。

They tracked the genetic signatures of that microbial community as it waned and waxed after death. And they used that data to build an algorithm that could pinpoint a corpse's time of death, to an accuracy of just two summertime days. "And that held out for up to six to seven weeks. And that's way better than entomology can tell you." Entomology being the study of the insects that colonize a corpse. "Entomology's ok for giving you upper and lower limits within five to seven days, but beyond that, entomology's not helpful."

在人体死后,他们跟踪了微生物群落兴衰枯容的遗传特征。之后他们利用那些数据建立了一个算法,通过该算法可以计算出尸体的具体死亡时间,最准确可以到两周。“可以延伸到六到七周。这样方法可以比昆虫学更加优越。”昆虫学研究的是昆虫的尸体。“昆虫学时间上下限为5到7天,但是,除此之外,昆虫学用处不大。”

The study is in the journal PLOS ONE.

该研究结果发表在《公共科学图书馆》期刊上。

The method isn't quite ready for primetime. There's still a lot of 'biological noise' in the system. "We're talking about living things here. Well.. living and dead things." But as with any machine learning, more info will help it see beyond the noise. "It will forever learn. So the more data we pump into this system, the better it will get."

上述方法尚不成熟。在这个系统中还有很多“生物噪音”。“我们现在谈论的是生物……活着的和死着的。”但是,在机器研究的帮助下,我们将会得到噪音之外的更多的信息。“这是学无止境的过程。所以,我们从这个系统中汲取的数据越多,那么它将会变得越好。”

Ultimately, Lents says, the algorithm will have to be smart enough to hold up in a court of law, when it could determine the fate of someone accused of turning someone into a corpse.

最后,伦茨表示,当这种算法可以决定一些人的命运的时候,而这些人遭遇指控将某些人致死,那么这种算法就可以用到法庭上。

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