All your unseen houseguests

In one of the most interesting scientific studies we’ve read in a long while, researchers conducted a zoological survey of sorts in an unlikely location: the average American household. Researchers wanted to survey the diversity of life inside the average, moderately cleaned household, from the floorboards up.


To do so, scientists crawled through homes using microscopic glasses, pincers, and an aspirator to suck up microscopic life. Most creatures that dwell inside our homes at a scale smaller than the naked eye can pick up fall into the category of arthropods. Arthropods are invertebrate creatures that have segmented bodies and long, jointed limbs. They’re largely harmless, but some varieties (like fleas or head lice) can be a real bother, while others (like dust mites) simply cause sneezing.

bed bug

Researchers expected to find a few common species that we’ve known about for a while, such as the ones just mentioned and book lice, which are one of the most common critters to live in all of our homes. Unlike their head-dwelling cousins, book lice are harmless, and eat dust and mildew that collects on paper products, especially in damp homes.


Instead, they were staggered to discover that the average home was hosting 100 different species, most commonly ants, booklice, beetles, and spiders. Most live where you wouldn’t see them, in cracks between floorboards and deep in carpet fibers, eating tiny particles of dead skin and hair, or collecting dust particles.


The homes surveyed for this study spanned a wide socioeconomic range, but they were all about 5000 square feet, and detached from other buildings to provide a good independent sample. Interestingly, the socioeconomic effect on microscopic diversity seems inversely proportional to most expectations, which is that poorer homes tend to be dirtier, and therefore would house a wider range of life. On the contrary, more affluent households saw higher measures of diversity.


The researchers who conducted the study said that while many Americans may be alarmed to learn just how many creepy crawlies are living under their noses, there’s nothing much to worry about. Unless you have an allergy to something like dust mites, or are seeing your books nibbled by lice, you’ll probably continue to coexist with your tiny neighbors for years. Still, it’s fascinating to know that our homes are much less sterile than we’d like to think!


It’s not all peaches and cream, though, because more Americans than ever are suffering allergic reactions to tiny particles and microscopic critters. The big takeaway for allergy sufferers from this study is that we’ve got  a lot more work to do to really address allergens in the home, from using vacuums with better, finer filters to doing a better job of cleaning into corners, cracks and carpets. Otherwise, chronic conditions may continue even in a relatively clean home.

man sneezing
For more on tiny problems that can escalate quickly, check out our post on tiny car tweaks! We’ve looked at a few key things you can address on your car to prevent big problems down the road, like cleaning your fuel injectors and checking your ball bearings!

Tiny car tweaks that can prevent big problems: what you should know about fuel injector cleaners, wheel alignment, and bearings

A car is probably the biggest purchase you’ll ever make, aside from property. It’s a big, hefty hunk of metal, and it can be easy to treat it as a gigantic machine that’s indestructible. A lot of us only get down to the nitty gritty of a car when it breaks down, and we need to fix a massive part, or when something goes catastrophically wrong.

Today on the blog, we’re going to take a look at some tiny parts of your car that have a really significant impact on how the whole thing runs. These are all things you can stay on top of to make sure your vehicle performs safely, powerfully and reliably.

First on our list are the fuel injectors. They’re some of the smallest components in the whole car, but they’re also some of the most crucial. Your fuel injectors are responsible for taking the gas from the fuel line to the firing chamber inside the engine, which runs on combustion.

car engine

Now, if you’ve ever taken a chemistry class, you know that fires can’t start without air. To get a good blaze, you need a balance between the amount of fuel and the amount of air your spark has to work with. Gas engines work on the same principle. If fuel flows or trickles into the combustion chamber, it doesn’t light all that well. There’s too much fuel, and not enough air. Enter the fuel injectors which you can learn more about on this fuel system cleaner review. Since we’ve been using them, they’ve made gas motors much, much more efficient. They take that flowing gasoline and project it in a fine spray into the firing chamber. So, instead of a stream of gas that’s hard to light, you end up with misted droplets that give the spark lots of surface area and air content to use for ignition.

When a fuel injector is spraying properly, you get maximum power from your engine, since you’re getting a better combustion, and you’re getting better fuel economy, since fuel is burning more efficiently. But when your injectors get clogged up over time (thanks to soot and ethanol content in fuels), they start firing at wonky angles, or spraying sluggishly. So, that tiny component ends up being the weakest link in your power train.

Luckily, there are very convenient ways to deal with grimy injectors. Fuel injector cleaners are available pretty cheaply at auto parts shops, and you don’t need any mechanical aptitude to use them. You just pour them into the gas line and drive them through until your tank is close to empty. Done! It seems almost too easy, but cleaning out fuel injectors may be the single biggest thing you can do to improve performance, especially with older vehicles. That’s even more true now that the government has mandated that 10% of all US gasoline be ethanol, which is especially gunky.

So, fuel injector cleaners are your number one tiny fix with big results for vehicles.

Next up is a fairly mundane topic, but one that has significant impacts on how you drive, and how much fuel you use: your tire pressure. You should always be adjusting your tire pressure based on the roads you drive. In rural areas, lower pressures are best. That’s also true in winter conditions. Higher tire pressures give you much better fuel economy and handling on nicely paved roads.

Handling is a subjective experience for most drivers, but it can get a lot more concrete in a hurry when you lose control of your vehicle. One small but easy way to give yourself better control around corners and in messy conditions is to have your mechanic check your wheel alignment when they change your oil. Just a degree or two of misalignment can be enough for you to take a wrong turn and end up in a ditch or worse, in a crash. If you have your mechanic take a quick look every service appointment, you won’t have anything to worry about.

man mechanic

Finally, let’s take a moment to talk about bearings. Ball bearings are probably the most important component on your car, as far as safety is concerned. The big problem is, most of us don’t learn about them until it’s too late. Ball bearings hold your wheels on, in the simplest terms, and when they break, there goes your wheel, and any hope of controlling your vehicle. It’s why you should always talk to your mechanic about even the slightest hum, throbbing or thumping noise from your vehicle, especially if you can trace it to a specific corner. You’ll be able to tell if one is getting ready to go, which means you can replace it before it completely self-destructs.

There you go: four simple fixes you can make to tiny car components that will pay off in big ways! Oh and by the way, you should go to for complete information and recommendations on fuel injector cleaning kits.

Your ever-changing microbiome

We’ve been learning a whole lot about the human microbiome in the past year. As you probably know, the microbiome is essentially a tiny ecosystem that exists inside each of us, and surrounds us in the air we breathe, and on the surface of our skin and hair. So, we not only embody a microbiome of diverse microscopic life (bacteria, pheromones, etc), but we also exude a unique biological signature, a living footprint, so to speak, as we move around.


Scientists have  demonstrated in a new study released this year that this externalization of our individual microbiome can create a biological signature that can actually be read in the aftermath of a crime, to help identify a suspect. Internally, a suspect’s location history and movements can be traced through analysis of the bacterium and other macrobiotic life that they’ve picked up while on the move. Everywhere you go, you’re constantly picking up biological traces of your surroundings, and leaving your own biological traces behind–even if you’re not touching anything. The simple fact of your passing through is enough to leave traces in the air!


This mutual relationship between one person’s microbiome and those of other people is a fascinating area of research at this time in science. We’ve learned that multiple micro biomes form reciprocal relationships, and become complimentary to each other when they share the same space. So, couples who cohabitate end up with much the same microdiversity inside and out. You share immunity to diseases, and you’re also much more likely to share an infection if one of you picks up the pathogen.


The same is true in communal spaces, such as offices. Through air transmission, microbiomes exchange elements and evolve together, meaning that you share much more than coffee with your coworkers.


And in a fascinating new development, we’ve now learned through analysis of microbial impact on diet and metabolism that your gut diversity is also significantly influenced by those around you. If one person’s microbiome is rich in gut probiotics, their roommates or partner will be too.


The bad news is, our conventional approaches to controlling the spread of microbial life and bacterial germs is deeply flawed. No matter how much you wash your hands and sanitize your surfaces, your microbiome is still interacting constantly with those of people around you. So, we will always be more susceptible to disease when in large communal spaces. The good news over the long term is that this increased interaction should in theory produce greater immunity. Of course, that depends on the company you keep! As the diet researchers discovered, people who surround themselves with folks who eat a very healthy, diverse diet that promotes gut diversity also end up with increased probiotic life in their tract. Sadly, the converse is true as well.


In the end, it seems that even on the smallest of scales, we truly are in this together: much more so than we’ve ever seen before.