cellular slime?

windwhisper

Member
Cantonese
Hello,

This is another question from my friend about a Scientific American story, Controversial Spewed Iron Experiment Succeeds as Carbon Sink (by David Biello), which puzzled me too.

It is about the meaning of the word “cellular” in the following context:

One key to the whole experiment’s success turns out to be the specific diatoms involved, which use silicon to make their shells and tend to form long strands of cellular slime after their demise that falls quickly to the seafloor.

Does it mean “of cells” (slime of diatom cells) or “porous” (since diatomite is renowned for its porosity)?

Could someone kindly enlighten me on this?

Thanks
 
  • Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Having read this carefully I have arrived at the same difficulty as you. My original thought was that the slime is made up of protoplasm from the deceased cells. However the other interpretation is entirely possible. I don't believe this can be resolved linguistically. To understand fully I think you would have to read the original scientific papers on which the article is based.

    EDITED for typo
     
    Last edited:

    windwhisper

    Member
    Cantonese
    Thanks so much for your answer, Biffo. Maye I need to go to the library to read the original papers (which might be very esoteric :confused:).
     

    bicontinental

    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    It is about the meaning of the word “cellular” in the following context:
    Does it mean “of cells” (slime of diatom cells) or “porous” (since diatomite is renowned for its porosity)?
    I’m unfamiliar with the article but I would read the quoted sentence this way:


    One key……….the specific diatoms involved, which use silicon to make their shells and [which], after their demise, form [turn into] long strands of cellular slime that falls quickly to the seafloor.

    Diatoms use silicon to make their shells.

    When these diatoms die (after their death/demise) they turn into cellular debris (‘slime of cells’) arranged in long strands which fall to the seafloor.

    Bic.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I’m unfamiliar with the article but I would read the quoted sentence this way:


    One key……….the specific diatoms involved, which use silicon to make their shells and [which], after their demise, form [turn into] long strands of cellular slime that falls quickly to the seafloor.

    Diatoms use silicon to make their shells.

    When these diatoms die (after their death/demise) they turn into cellular debris (‘slime of cells’) arranged in long strands which fall to the seafloor.

    Bic.
    That was my first thought but where do the (empty?) shells fit into this? We could think of them as making the slime 'cellular' in a different sense.
     

    windwhisper

    Member
    Cantonese
    Thanks for your answer, bicontinental. And thanks again for your comment, Biffo :)

    The "slime of cells" thing was my first thought too. But the word "cellular" has been troubling me because it may also mean "porous".
     

    Uncle Bob

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm sure it has nothing to do with diatomite, which is fossilised diatom shells.
    I think the point is that, since it's about getting rid of carbon, that the carbonaceous cell debris (slime) sinks to the seabed whatever happens to the shells which are made of silicon anyway.
    I assume further reading of the article will or will not confirm this.
     

    bicontinental

    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    But the word "cellular" has been troubling me because it may also mean "porous".
    We could think of them as making the slime 'cellular' in a different sense.
    Hi Biffo and windwhisper,
    I have zero knowledge of the metabolism of a diatom, so this is purely linguistic on my part: based on the quoted sentence which uses ‘long strands of slime’, I don’t get the idea that the author is referring to anything fossilated, rockhard or even firm enough to form a porous substance made up of individual cells. Therefore, I would interpret 'cellular' as '[made] of cells'. And if I understand you correctly Biffo, I don’t think the diatoms are ‘making the slime cellular’ as it seems to happen after their demise?

    In sum, I would agree with Uncle Bob’s interpretation.

    Bic.
     

    windwhisper

    Member
    Cantonese
    Thank you all for your enlightening answers. After reading your comments and reconsidering the sentence, I think I'll just forget the "porous" thing :)
     
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