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Recently, because of the coronavirus, many people are forced to stay home in quarantine. Something that many people are doing with their time is baking bread with sourdough starters. In this comic, a joke is made that coronavirus is actually an organism which lives symbiotically with yeast in sourdough starters, and leads a parasitic lifestyle inside of humans, sourdough starter, and bread.
Parasites are organisms that usually cannot survive without the presence of another host organism. Many parasites have distinct cycles in order to propagate themselves, which are indirect in nature. For example, Toxoplasma gondii will first go through mice, affecting their nervous systems and making them extremely reckless, in order to get the system caught and eaten by a cat, which is the target host for the parasite. It has been said that the parasite may also infect other animals too, with unintended side effects... To this end, Randall proposes that the coronavirus is possibly one such parasite, using humans as a vector in order to infect yeast. Since many humans (bakers) work with yeast a lot, that is a convoluted, though not entirely impossible, way for the virus to spread to its host.
The word symbiont suggests symbiosis, which is not a parasitic relationship, but rather one of mutual benefit. This adds to the convulation, since although we usually regard symbiosis as good, as opposed to parasitism, the virus causes a lot of harm in another species to do it.
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[Cueball stands in front of kitchen counter while holding a jar.]
Cueball: My sourdough starter is coming along nicely!
Theory: The coronavirus is a yeast symbiont with an extremely convoluted parasitic life cycle.
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Symbiosis is good for the species involved in that relationship, but it may still be harmful to other organisms. What Randall is suggesting is that humans are collateral damage. Barmar (talk) 21:37, 20 April 2020 (UTC)
Is there controversy around covid-19 coming from cave bats rarely visited by humans, or would the bats be part of the convoluted lifecycle? 18.104.22.168 22:02, 20 April 2020 (UTC)
Is this comic suggesting the yeast would allow the virus to survive without a human host, and when we later swap sourdough starters the virus could then find a new human host to infect? Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 01:05, 21 April 2020 (UTC)
- The virus and yeast can have working symbiosis without ever coming into physical contact. It's just that the lockdown probably ends before the virus will be actually eradicated, so large meetings just after end of lockdown is not good idea. -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:19, 21 April 2020 (UTC)
That is not a theory in the caption. It has no evidence and makes no testable predictions, at least as far as I can tell. It is just a hypothesis. Nutster (talk) 01:56, 21 April 2020 (UTC)
- Maybe not a theory in the real world, but this isn't the real world. Perhaps in the world of this comic there is evidence and there were predictions that have been tested, making it a theory to Cueball. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 02:17, 21 April 2020 (UTC)
- With a bit of reading online, I've discovered that your definition of "theory" is but one of many different definitions of the word. In some contexts, theory is synonymous with hypothesis, according to Merriam-Webster. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 02:31, 21 April 2020 (UTC)
- Theory: This comic is the same category as "My hobby". Aka: It's a joke. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 07:21, 21 April 2020 (UTC)
- "theory - noun - an idea used to account for a situation or justify a course of action" - that seems to describe how Randall used the word Barmar (talk) 14:03, 21 April 2020 (UTC)
In the UK at least, it's been too successful. You can't get flour in the shops most times. Apparently, most flour goes into big sacks for bakeries and the like. The mills haven't been able to gear up their production of small bags for domestic use. 22.214.171.124 09:24, 21 April 2020 (UT
My pet theory, before Boris Johnson got a bit better and didn't relax measures, was that COVID had deliberately infected half the Cabinet in order to gain the authority to infect everyone else, like common Pod People tropes would have happen. (That didn't happen, but maybe it's just being more clever. Like causing the PPE supply chains to break under the strain.) 126.96.36.199 10:46, 21 April 2020 (UTC)
Isn't "swapping starters" a Pokemon reference? You know, getting together and trading starter Pokemon until everyone has all 3. Daevin (talk) 14:53, 21 April 2020 (UTC)
I assumed this was a continuation of the previous comic: precise number + garbage = garbage; perfectly good flour + sourdough starter = garbage that tastes so bad not even microbes want to eat it.
- Bakers gonna bake, Haters gonna hate... Tier666 (talk) 09:48, 22 April 2020 (UTC)
Have to confess: The yeasts (and lactobacilli) got me - still waiting for the virus. Tier666 (talk) 09:48, 22 April 2020 (UTC)
- I wonder if this point (that lactobacilli are an important part of sourdough should be added to the actual explanation above.Tovodeverett (talk) 14:37, 23 April 2020 (UTC)
Sourdough fanatics insist, despite solid evidence to the contrary, that the yeast strains in their carefully maintained starter material are identical to those present when their greatgreatgrandmother started the very first batch. Stuff flies in through the window, or off your fingers, or whatever, every time the starter is exposed to air. Whatever -- the final product still tastes great. And after all, "Viruses HATE This One Simple Trick To Kill Them" : bake to kill off everything in the dough. Cellocgw (talk) 10:48, 22 April 2020 (UTC)
- I wouldn't say I'm a fanatic at any level, but we do make sourdough pancakes on a semi-regular basis. I recognize that the starter I have maintained for 20+ years has altered over time through the introduction of new strains and possibly through mutation, but it is still linked to the starter I received. After all, I still consider myself to be me after 40+ years! I received the starter from my mother, who in turn received it from a family that received it from a family (and so on) with the claim that it traces back to the Alaska Goldrush days. We have no way of knowing for certain if the claim is true, but since we live in Anchorage, it might actually be true. I also like to think of all the evolutionary bottlenecks my starter has gone through - we sometimes go 6 months with it barely hanging on in the fridge, and I keep two copies running in parallel as a safety net, but I suspect lengthy periods of fridge life have definitely shaped the starter to be fridge resilient. It gets a little funky, and I've lost one copy from time to time and had to fork from the other, but a month stretch of sustained weekly pancake making has it back in good form. So maybe Randall's not that far off - my starter knew it was getting sketchy and called in COVID-19 to save it! And furthermore, I forked it and sent a copy to live with a friend, so now there's more redundancy in the network! And we're all making pancakes and smiling at the bubbly froth in the morning!Tovodeverett (talk) 14:37, 23 April 2020 (UTC)