But around 2007, Hormel quietly embarked on a venture that would take it deeper than it had ever been into the cupboards and kitchens of Americans, many of them immigrants, many of them young. It led to a series of acquisitions and a blitz of research and development that helped round out its pantry of products and inoculate it against the fickle modern food trends of a kale-and-quinoa world.
One of the first things it did was hire an anthropologist.
Indeed, Loeb’s team found that life would be about one thousand timesmore likely to arise in the distant future by calculating the probability of habitable, Earthlike planets forming over trillions of years.
The scenario casts Earthlings as early bloomers, prematurely born long before the universe’s most fertile life-bearing years. Perhaps this is one possible explanation for the classic Fermi paradox: Have we struck out in our attempts to detect alien intelligence simply because we are the first example of it to show up to the cosmic party?
“I Contain Multitudes” has a terrific story to tell. For the last quarter-century or so, microbiologists have been exploring what may amount to a new view of life, full of fascination and self-contradiction. Their work suggests strange and surprising things about our origin and evolution, about health and disease, about symbiosis and risk. This is one of the most interesting developments in biology today. It sweeps from the personal to the planetary; it changes the way you look at human bodies, birds in the air and leaves of grass. Like all new views, it is hard to take in — although, like it or not, we can hardly get away from it.
There should be a word for the sensation we experience when peeling back the foil lid from a tray of warm gloop. There’s a release of tension, a sense of comfort coupled with anticipation.
We’re unwrapping a meat mystery, but we already know the answer depending on our response to the question “Chicken or beef?”