Indigenous knowledge and the microbiome

February 9, 2023 • 9:45 am

The paper below was sent to me by a New Zealander who told me that it was an exemplar of how “indigenous knowledge” is touted as a way of advancing modern science by contributing new ideas and perspectives.  It wasn’t that the sender endorsed it, but rather questioned its assertions.  When I saw the title implying that indigenous knowledge could, by connecting with “colonized Western science”, improve scientific understanding of the microbiome. I was dubious, too. After all, the discovery of microbes is an achievement of “colonial science”, for indigenous peoples, be they Inuit, Native American, or, in this case, Māori, simply didn’t know about microbes and had no way to visualize them—ergo no way to study them. How, then, could indigenous knowledge of the microbiome contribute anything to modern science?

The answer, if you read the paper and some of the papers it cites, is that it can’t. What I’m NOT saying is not that indigenous people can’t contribute to scientific understanding in this area, for they can, simply by collaborating with “modern” scientists and also, perhaps, by calling attention to some phenomena that will lead science into new areas of microbial research.  But even there the accomplishments are thin so far, though there are some Māori working in microbial science and collaborating with non-Māori scientists in projects involving microbes.

But that’s not what the authors, two of whom are of Māori ancestry, maintain. Their claim is given in this part of abstract of this paper from Environmental Microbiology (click on screenshot below to read, pdf here):

Indigenous Peoples have a rich and long-standing connection with the environments that they descend from—a connection that has informed a deep and multifaceted understanding of the relationship between human well-being and the environment. Through cultural narratives and practices, much of this knowledge has endured despite the ongoing effects that colonization has had on many Indigenous peoples across the world. These narratives and practices, based on observation, experimentation, and practical application over many generations, have the potential to make compelling contributions to our understanding of the environmental microbiome and its relationship to health.

This is the claim that indigenous knowledge, in this case Mātauranga Māori or Māori “ways of knowing” , will give us insights into the microbiome that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. But how can that be since MM has nothing in it about microorganisms? It turns out those insights don’t seem to exist, but they bury their claim in a number of assertions (some of which are true) about the Māori.

First, what do the authors mean by “microbiome”? There are two construals: the microbial fauna associated with the environment in general, and then the microbial fauna associated with us: in our skin and in our gut. They go back and forth between these two interpretations.

Read for yourself:

Here are the claims that, say the authors, support their assertion:

a.) Māori “ways of knowing” give unique perspectives on life that can further research on the microbiome. Here are two of them:

Inherent in the ancestral interactions with nature came the creation of kōrero tuku iho (traditional teachings and wisdom that is passed down through subsequent generations). These traditional teachings contained and still carry meaningful sources of mātauranga (knowledge) or messages about the structures of nature and how to successfully navigate them. Indigenous narratives are replete with examples connecting the health of individuals and communities with the natural environment. For example, Inyang refers to a proverb from the Ibibio of Kenya—“ke owo aba nte nkankuk omo”—which suggests that a person’s life is “replicated” in their environment (38). Luther Standing Bear of the Sicangu and Oglala Lakota once noted that “we are of the soil and the soil is of us” (39). Whakataukī (Māori proverbs) often refer to the environment as the source of wellbeing.

and (my bolding)

The ability for Indigenous scientists and researchers to articulate, explain, and understand scientific phenomena through their own cultural lens is an important pathway for Indigenous and non-Indigenous success in any field (54). In addition, the success of Indigenous scientists and researchers creates pathways for people from their own culture to relate and aspire to those roles themselves. Instead of assuming that Indigenous approaches weaken the validity of robust science (55), we argue that Indigenous ontologies, epistemologies, and methodologies provide an increased depth to understand the environment-microbiome-health nexus. Indigenous Peoples have long been able to explain the complexities of natural phenomena through stories and narratives where features of the environment are personified or codified. These uniquely Indigenous mechanisms of understanding and explaining the natural world, including the microbiome and its connection to health and the wider ecosystem—mechanisms underpinned by observation, experimentation, and practical application—have enabled Indigenous Peoples to survive and thrive for generations.

This is simply re-interpreting legends and stories to apply to the microbiome, a phenomenon unknown to the creators of those stories. What we have here are analogies that may be interesting, but useless in further understanding of the microbiome. In fact, the authors admit this:

Indigenous narratives may not refer directly to the microbiome, but there are many references to an unseen connection between people and the environment. For example, Indigenous Peoples may talk of the environment “speaking to us,” and similar language is a part of other traditions, including within the many major religious texts.

But statements about the environment “speaking to us”, even under the most liberal interpretation, don’t forge a connection between modern science and indigenous knowledge.  Here’s one more:

Indigenous epistemologies and frames of knowing repeatedly recognize the influence of unseen (or microscopic) forces upon health. Studies of the microbiome can be viewed similarly, as a way of coming to understand those unseen entities that are essential to good health. Some non-Indigenous scientists may be uncomfortable with the “spiritual” connotations associated with Indigenous knowledge systems of the unseen, but for Indigenous peoples, the spiritual and physical worlds are intertwined so that they cannot be fully understood separately (40). Because of this, Indigenous ways of understanding the unseen could provide a culturally relevant framework for the study of the microbiome.

This again is an analogy, and while it may help explain to people steeped in legends that those “unseen forces” are tiny microorganisms connected with health and disease, wouldn’t it just be better to dispense with the numinous stuff? And to what extent do we really nee a “culturally relevant framework” to study microbiomes? Perhaps we need it to communicate with indigenous people, but that’s communication, not scientific research.

Then come are several claims about the Māori that, while the claims deal with people interacting with the environment (including microbes), involve microbiomes only tangentially—and again don’t open a path to deeper understanding of the phenomenon.

b.) By being forced via colonization away from nature into the cities, the Māori have become more prone to “diseases of civilization,” have been removed from the healthy microbes in the natural environment, and have adopted unhealthy diets that foster non-optimal internal microbes.

In addition to suffering from inequities in access to health services, healthy foods, and adequate housing (57), it is also likely that Indigenous Peoples have reduced access and exposure to health-promoting microbiota. As a result of urban drift and the impacts of urbanization on the environmental microbiome (89), many Indigenous People now live in cities that are far from their ancestral lands and the diversity of potentially beneficial exposures they possess (10). What’s more, Indigenous Peoples, like many minority groups, are more likely to have reduced access to high quality and/or biodiverse green and blue spaces in urban areas due to their greater representation in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods (1112) and the general impacts of urbanization on ecosystem integrity and biodiversity (9). On the other hand, eating more traditional diets is associated with increased diet quality (13) and improved cardiovascular health (14) among Indigenous Peoples and a traditional Indigenous lifestyle has been associated with more diverse and abundant commensal microbiota (15).

Much of this is surely true, but you can see that they throw in the microbiome as something associated with the deleterious effects of past bigotry and colonization. What we see here is the result of poverty, and one’s gut biota is among the least important of all those problems mentioned. Here’s another tangential connection:

In New Zealand, Māori are disproportionately affected by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancers, diabetes, metabolic illness, and heart disease, like many Indigenous Peoples globally (18). Interestingly, recent research has shown that many NCDs are associated with and influenced by the microbiome (1922). For example, dysbiosis of gut microbiota was present in stroke and transient ischemic attack patients, compared with controls (23), and reduced diversity of the gut microbiome was associated with obesity and insulin resistance (24).

Again, this shows the effect of a genome unaccustomed to foreign environments suffering from their effects. Although cancer and heart disease are more frequent among Māori than among descendants of colonists, that’s not a connection between indigenous knowledge and microbes, nor a way to help understand the microbiomes. These facts are of course important in public health considerations, but they don’t speak to the paper’s main point.

Below the paper again brings up traditional knowledge and sayings, but to no scientific use:

Inherent in the ancestral interactions with nature came the creation of kōrero tuku iho (traditional teachings and wisdom that is passed down through subsequent generations). These traditional teachings contained and still carry meaningful sources of mātauranga (knowledge) or messages about the structures of nature and how to successfully navigate them. Indigenous narratives are replete with examples connecting the health of individuals and communities with the natural environment. For example, Inyang refers to a proverb from the Ibibio of Kenya—“ke owo aba nte nkankuk omo”—which suggests that a person’s life is “replicated” in their environment (38) Luther Standing Bear of the Sicangu and Oglala Lakota once noted that “we are of the soil and the soil is of us” (39)

References to the environment, which are surely part of every indigenous culture, don’t point an obvious way forward in microbial research, even if they do say “we are of the soil and the soil is of us.” Again, we have a proverb that doesn’t help either science or the health of the Māori. It is merely an analogy that has been snuck into a discussion of scientific research.

c.) Māori are more susceptible to global warming because many have been forced into cities. The connection to the “microbiome”, I suppose is that the Māori have been forced away from their environment, part of which includes microbes:

Indigenous Peoples are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and the climate crisis will likely compound health inequities experienced by Indigenous People (3132). Contemporary climate change is also directly impacting the ability of Indigenous People to interact with ancestral lands. For example, Maldonado et al. (33) highlighted the case of the Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, where intense coastal erosion has reduced the island that has been a home and refuge to Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw since they were forced to relocate there by early settlers. Accordingly, microbiota also respond directly to changes in climate but also indirectly via the degrading effect of climate change on ecosystems (34)

This is what’s called a “stretch”.  The problem here is one of people living in unhealthy environments because of bigotry in the past, and you don’t need to know much about microbiomes to deal with that issue.

d.) Māori are underrepresented in microbiological research. This is true of nearly all indigenous people, who show “inequity” of representation in science. I do think that casting as wide a net as possible is the best way to beef up the talent pool in science, so the more people competing for positions and slots in graduate school, the better.  Surely indigenous people should be given equal opportunity to study science and become scientists! But this has nothing to do with the different “perspectives” that different groups bring to science, for, as we have seen, Māori “ways of knowing” offer little to understanding microbiomes. I’ve always been deeply dubious about the claim that different identity groups will have different ways of producing scientific knowledge, for I haven’t seen many examples. (One I sometimes cite is that women evolutionists have promoted more research into female preference in the study of sexual selection, but that’s the only one I’ve thought of.)

e). It’s essential to collaborate with Indigenous people if you’re doing science that affects them or their environments.  On this I wholly agree, for you can’t just go imposing environmental or medical changes on people without their assent and collaboration. One example is the collaboration between Māori and non-Māori scientists in helping save the famous endemic kauri trees of New Zealand, magnificent trees that require protection from logging and from kauri dieback” a serious microbial disease. In this case, scientists identified the causal organism and are testing different treatments (without much luck), and the Māori sequester the endangered trees and their environs, for incursions by tourists and strangers help spread the disease.

Here’s one more example of how cultural sensitivity is important in cases involving microbiology, but again, this has nothing to do with indigenous knowledge advancing the microbiome. In fact, in this case modern science can help both indigenous and non-indigenous people:

There are also ethical and cultural challenges unique to microbiology that require Indigenous perspectives and leadership (49). Treatment or experimental procedures, such as fecal transplant, may have significant “health” benefits (57), but acceptance and uptake of such procedures among Indigenous Peoples will likely be low without significant Indigenous input. In Māori cultural practice there already exist concepts that govern societal, practical, and hygienic practices. The concept of tapu (state of restriction), for example, provides a uniquely Indigenous way of thinking about cross contamination, and restrictions relating to human waste and food (58). Māori have also developed contemporary ethical guidelines based on cultural values (tikanga), as in Te Ara Tika, a set of guidelines for conducting ethical research with Māori (59); and Te Mata Ira, Guidelines for Genomic Research with Māori, developed to ensure that Māori perspectives and values are reflected in genetic/genomic research.

Of course one has to recognize cultural sensitivities and strictures, and perhaps even incorporate then in doing research affecting indigenous people, but again, this is a matter of cross-cultural understanding, not cross-cultural scientific fertilization.

I’ve written way too much, I see, but I hope you’ve gotten the point that the authors are stretching like Gumby to try to show how indigenous (especially Māori) knowledge can advance our knowledge of the human and environmental microbiome. In the case of microbial studies, that possibility is especially unlikely because indigenous knowledge has nothing to say about microbes, except by analogy to legend and traditions. That doesn’t mean that indigenous researchers can’t make contributions to understanding microbiomes—only that they will have to do so by digging into the toolkit of modern science.

It’s ironic that the one solid finding about microbiomes mentioned in the entire paper comes not from indigenous knowledge, but from studies in Finland using the methods of modern science:

Being outdoors also increases exposure to (28) and transfer of environmental microbiomes onto the skin (29), via the aerobiome (30), the respiratory tract (29) and into the gut (19). For example, a placebo-controlled double-blinded study in Finland showed that the intervention group that engaged with microbially rich soil brought into playground sand experienced colonization of these microbiota to the skin with subsequent promotion of immunomodulation (interleukin-10 and T cell frequencies) (19).


33 thoughts on “Indigenous knowledge and the microbiome

  1. I think it is fair to say that “indigenous knowledge” WAS “science” at a certain time in the past, when it represented the best summary of the data available at that time. However, at the present time, it is highly unlikely that there is any “indigenous knowledge” that is ahead of, or even equal to, the current scientific understanding of natural phenomena.

  2. I have a question for the scientists and historians of science reading this post.

    Is the assertion that: “for Indigenous peoples, the spiritual and physical worlds are intertwined so that they cannot be fully understood separately” true also of Western researchers at various periods in the past?

    1. See Euan Cameron’s book Enchanted Europe for an account that brings out the ways some European scientists in the seventeenth century accepted the kind of ideas you are referring to. In some ways this involved going backwards from earlier more naturalistic ideas.

    2. If you include moralism with “the spiritual” many examples spring to mind, from plague and cholera outbreaks being due to poor moral behavior among the poor, to AIDS outbreaks in the 1980’s and most recently the assertion that unvaccinated COVID-19 patients should be treated last (if at all).

    3. Early people in Europe had all manner of spiritual beliefs over the millennia that preceded Christianity. There were beliefs from Roman times, Greek, and then well before (i.e., the tattoos on Otzi, the preserved 5300 year old human, and then earlier human cave paintings and “Venus” figurines of women made from things like mammoth ivory). A “tell” about how valuable those beliefs turn out to be is the simple fact that the deep spiritual meaning of most of that stuff is completely and utterly forgotten. And yet scientific advances has managed to limp along without them.

    4. Not an answer to your question, but what struck me about that statement was how patronizingly unqualified it was — not just *some* indigenous individuals or cultures believed this, but all of them, everywhere, globally and immutably. The mendacity and conceit of the claim are simply breathtaking.

  3. “Indigenous Peoples have a rich and long-standing connection with the environments that they descend from—a connection that has informed a deep and multifaceted understanding of the relationship between human well-being and the environment”.

    That would include exterminating all the large fauna and flightless birds in New Zealand, and destroying half its original ancient forest, in the few hundred years since the Maori arrived, would it?

    1. Oh, knockout in the first round. I like it. 😀

      But it is true, just as it is true for Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa.

      1. Yes. All God’s children have to eat, birds are tasty and you can’t eat a forest.

        Jared Diamond in Collapse writes that his students often asked him, “When an Easter Islander went forth with an axe to chop down the last tree on the Island, did he not think that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea?” Diamond replies that what happens is that the trees get smaller and smaller (partly because younger and younger) but you and your livestock cause soil erosion and other ecological changes that mean the seedlings will never grow back as trees (like in Iceland.)

        Doubtless the same thing happened with the moa. They were easy to kill until they became too scarce to find each other and mate, being unable to fly, and determined hunters kept after them until they were gone, never knowing that Thag had got the last one.

        Just a fact check for Steve, though. New Zealand has no indigenous mammals except for two species of bats that managed to fly across The Ditch from Australia. Birds are all they have on land that look like megafauna.

        1. Thanks Leslie. I stand corrected – and of course I should have realised that that must have been the case before I put finger to keyboard. But I couldn’t resist the rhetorical flourish!

  4. Indigenous peoples worldwide have been displaced, abused, and treated poorly throughout history. But the path forward is to *join* the ranks of scientists and to use their influence to make things better. Refusing to participate—or creating a parallel system—will only displace indigenous peoples further from society and will not do anything to improve health. Worldwide, we need to do everything possible to get more people interested in science and to provide equal opportunities for everyone with the interest and aptitude to participate.

    1. Your suggestion is reasonable. The counterargument seems to be that indigenous people are sensitive ewoks who must not be told that their spiritual epistemology is wrong. The authors of that paper are incredibly condescending and patronizing toward indigenous people. “There, there, have some stories and narratives, we’ll take care of the particle accelerators and cancer treatments.” Talk about racial stereotypes.

      1. Yes, there’s something especially patronizing about putting “we are of the soil and the soil is of us” side-by-side with modern science on microbiome and clapping enthusiastically . It’s like adults cooing over a child pretending to be an adult, confident that eventually he’ll leave the room and they can get on with real business. Or maybe they just plan to adjourn.

    2. What you are advising is integration and assimilation, Norman, which of course is the only way forward for them and for us. The last time a Canadian government proposed this was in a 1969 White Paper. It led to such a storm of protest from the indigenous establishment — > 600 elected band chiefs and various settler consultants, law firms, and hangers-on who prospered from the racist Indian Act — that the idea sank like a stone. Said establishment is now bigger and richer than ever under the official parallelism of the two-wampum road* even as individual natives remain mired in poverty, addiction, crime, and dysfunction, with methamphetamine and powerful opioids added to the traditional scourge of alcohol.

      The Prime Minister at the time, Pierre Trudeau, reacted to the denunciation of his assimilationist proposal with the prescient, “Fine. They can stay in the ghetto if they want to.”

      Fun fact. A young man in Saskatchewan who was a Star Trek fan got a personalized licence plate reading, ASSIML8, referring to The Borg. Eventually someone complained that it was painful racist Wrongthink and the Ministry yanked the plate.
      * under which neither genes nor ideas pass between the two canoes. Only money and only in one direction.

  5. Basically this is exactly the same approach as Islamic scholars scouring the Qu’ran for verses that might provide some vague simile for the structure of the atom or the process of foetal development — a sober and deadly serious endeavour to them; obviously and laughably false to everyone else.

    1. It’s also what creationists do: Shoe-horned reinterpretation of ancient myths to make them appear to foreshadow recent scientific developments.

  6. Discourse like this illustrates the “Equity” side of DEI. These exercises strain to concoct
    some verbal relationship to microbes or to cosmology in indigenous traditions, some relationship to atomic Physics in the Koran, etc. etc. Fortunately, nobody depends on word-salad of this kind in civil engineering, waste disposal, plumbing repair, or surgery,.

  7. “Indigenous” is really the false term. It’s traditional folk knowledge vs the systematicity and better methods of modern science, with some fuzzy boundaries between the two.
    The thing closest to microbes I ever saw from the times before miocrobes were discovered was in Lurianic Kabbalah as practiced in the folk religion of Polish/Ukrainian Jews. They imagined a host of tiny demons literally colonizing every space on your body that would harm you/make you sick, and you had to remove them with constant cleansing rituals (washing your hands actually being a method of removing demons from your hands, aside from amulets and folk medicines to ingest), and doing the wrong stuff or not saying your brokhes would attract demons in droves to your body. The Baal shem (healer) manuals I read aren’t moralistic or religious in the usual sense, its all very mechanistic, and for all intents and purposes much of it sounds like health manuals written by health food/sports fanatics today.

    1. Fascinating, Ruth. Thanks for mentioning this. Although my paternal grandmother was a rebbetzin ( רביצין), she never once told me about this. (In fact, beside keeping strictly kosher, she was also a health nut.) From now on, I definitely adopt Matauranga Kabala.

  8. As always, thanks for calling out the attempted colonisation of Science by Matauranga Maori here in NZ. Unfortunately most of us in NZ feel we can’t put our head publicly above the parapet as we know, from seeing what happened to the Listener 7, our heads will be shot off by accusations of racism.

    There’s also a lot of very ill informed views on science from the commentariat e.g. see this article:

    A mixture of the usual valorisation of indigenous knowledge and belief that trial and error is science.

  9. I possibly missed it in my very quick scan of the original paper, but didn’t see any acknowledgement that Maori life expectancy has risen more dramatically than non-Maori life expectancy in the last century or so, a time of increasing Maori integration into European society, including NZ’s public health systems, and rapid urbanisation, especially after 1950. Thus, while Maori female life expectancy at birth in 1951 was 54 vs 72 for non-Maori females, ie, 75%, by 2017 it was 77 vs 84, ie, 92%. At a time when Maori females were presumably losing contact with their natural environment, their life expectancy rose in both absolute terms and relative terms, though still inferior.

    In 2018, forecast life NZ female expectancies were:

    Chinese; 90.1
    Indian: 85.7
    European: 85.1
    Samoan: 82.2

    While it’s possible there is a small element of truth in the authors’ hypotheses, their desire to valorise indigenous knowledge leads them to ignore rather more significant causal factors, eg, social class difference, high rates of smoking and obesity, different access to public health in rural and urban communities, alleged failure of Maori patients to keep appointments, etc; and thus to overlook other remedies and the vastly superior efficacy of modern, non-indigenous medicine and science.

    On a vaguely related matter, I note the authors’ use of ‘cultural ,lens‘, a term popular among decolonisers; an indigenous government MP recently accused a conservative indigenous MP of using a ‘vanilla’ lens in her criticisms of government policies. Given the absence of indigenous glassmaking and, hence lenses capable of observing the minute and the far-off, a somewhat self-defeating metaphor when promoting indigenous science and medicine.

  10. Microbes were not discovered until microscopes were invented and their relationships to diseases was slow and sometime later if I’m not mistaken?

    I do use parables and metaphors to explain things all the time, often to myself, but a story is a story in the end for me.

    Sadly, NCDs are common among Māori down here and its tragic. My mother is a staff nurse at the NZ Cancer Society and knows it all well firsthand. Much of it is from the new lifestyles, but not from any mystical stuff but from bad housing, bad diet, poverty and lack of medical knowledge. Although she finds much of it fascinating the process of getting through is hard as it is hard to describe it.

  11. There was an earlier clash between the Aristotelian knowledge base in Europe and beliefs that educated medieval people would take to be superstitious, like the idea that you could cure an illness with a spell. Aristotelian knowledge was in many ways primitive, but it included the straightforward knowledge that saying words, moving air with your breath, had no effect on disease. Their medicines were not very good, but they were based on empirical studies going back to the Greeks. Their use of a concept of superstition indicates the contrast they wanted to make between genuine study of the body and its diseases and indigenous hocus-pocus.

  12. Maybe it’s worth recalling that our word “hocus-pocus” comes from the European history of how we have treated claims to make plants grow and to cure people by traditional rigmaroles.

    1. You may have put your finger on something important. Does it fascinate anyone else how these MM papers use positively promiscuous amounts of Maori language scattered around, and often with no translation? Are we not looking at a linguistic fashion as much as a social justice movement? Whether it is business-speak in the board room or the double Dutch of post-modernism in the sociology journal, we signal our expertise by using words we (secretly) hope no one else understands and will be impressed thereby.
      But this is all play-acting respect for the Maori. If the academics aren’t willing to go the whole hog and write and teach exclusively in Maori I say they are frauds. It’s a bit like the English moving to wild Wales or remote Caithness and ostentatiously smattering their speech with Welsh or the Gaelic. All make-believe and pretense, or should I say, pretentiousness.

      1. That is important. Conventionally in writing English, foreign words that have not been thoroughly anglicized by long use are supposed to be put in italics to warn the reader that he needs to go to another part of his memory to decode the word. Even in a country with two official languages it is bad manners to drop phrases from the other one into an English text, even if only deplorable Anglos wouldn’t know what bonjour mes amis means for Heaven’s sake. (It means, “Hello, (my) friends”, btw.). We don’t drop the French words for things like maple syrup, pea soup, and mailbox bombs into ordinary writing just because they are associated with Quebec.
        All documents from the federal government are available in English and in French as separate texts. You can communicate with it in writing or by phone in either language. But anyone giving an address who larded his speech with obscure French phrases just to signal his bilingualism would immediately lose half his audience. That there is so little pushback against this in NZ is disappointing.

  13. Junk science degrees and junk stem diplomas will keep indigenous people in poverty forever.
    ‘I don’t do any programming on your white man computers and androids, but here is how Maori folklore predicted computers and androids a thousand years ago and I’ve got a PhD in computer programming to prove it’ isn’t getting anyone a job as a programmer anytime soon.

  14. What I could add is perhaps a subjective impression:

    These ideas blending peer-reviewed discovery with Maori culture come across like the stuff that was out in the 70s, or 80s, which blended far-out “zen” or “new age” lifestyle fantasy with physical science (in particular).

    Like the spiritual feelings you can fantasize about from reading general audience/entry level science on subatomic particles.

    “Far out man!”

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