A childhood friend told me that when she was a little girl, she heard her mother say “don’t drop crumbs, we’ll get ants!” After hearing that, she thought that crumbs turned into ants. My friend and I laughed about this, but later we learned in our grade-school science class that people have shared similar beliefs over the ages. From Aristotle to the ancient Egyptians to Westerners at the start of the 19th century, it was commonly believed that frogs were born from mud, mice grew from smelly old clothes, and rotten meat turned into maggots (ick!). This so-called spontaneous generation of living organisms from non-living substances is also referred to as abiogenesis. Definitive evidence against abiogenesis was finally provided in the 1860’s when Pasteur’s famous swan neck flask experiments showed that microbes did not spontaneously develop within sterilized broth. While this is certainly a landmark scientific discovery, I’ve been surprised to find direct relevance to my own research program.