As in the title, I was wondering how would feel an amount of one type of bacteria or virus, big enough to have a tangible size of the sample. What color, state (liquid, solid), textures, smell ecc. of the sample would be.

Ideally I would consider only the bacteria or virus, and none of their possible byproducts, and without any medium where they normally live in. Just the organisms in a tangible amount.

Therefore: why a set of bacteria will look like that? Why, for example, some are fluffly molds, others looks like a dough and so on. Is this representative of the physical structure of the bacteria?

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    $\begingroup$ Lab-grown E. coli is kind of a light-medium brown color, and smells like... E. coli. I don't know how to describe it. It's kind of squishy if you play with it, which I wouldn't recommend because you just used a lot of media to grow that much. I imagine it would get hard(er) if you dry it out, but I've never fully dried a pellet that big, just used it for protein purification. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Jun 18 '21 at 19:31
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    $\begingroup$ It's going to ultimately depend on just how much you have. I'm not really seeing the practical reasoning behind this question, though. Can you explain what is directly motivating your question, and perhaps narrow it down substantially? $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 18 '21 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ It has absolutely nothing practical. It is more philosophical. I've read somewhere that the total amount of covid-19 in the world is estimated to be some hundreds of grams, and I wondered how that would look like if all gathered. Question is then extended to bacteria as well. In other words, is exactly in line with the "what-if" questions. $\endgroup$
    – thexeno
    Jun 18 '21 at 23:28
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    $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause I thought you were going to refer to this xkcd, which is even more on-point. $\endgroup$
    – jakebeal
    Jun 19 '21 at 1:59
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    $\begingroup$ @jakebeal there is always a relevant xkcd. $\endgroup$
    – Roni Saiba
    Jun 19 '21 at 4:34

There is no one answer to this question, any more than there is a single answer to the question of what color, texture, or size a mammal is.

To get a sense of some of the diversity out there, the American Society for Microbiology has a nice gallery of bacterial colony morphology, showing that in most cases, you end up with basically variously colored and shaped blobs of snot-like substance. At a larger scale, some microbial mats are formed of bacteria, and can form more fibrous mats bound together by extracellular substrate.

  • $\begingroup$ As mentioned in another comment, I wonder if when the sample looks "wet", is just an effect of the amount of the bacteria, or they are actually wet. Again, because the concept of wet would not exist if taking water molecules individually, maybe with bacteria is the same. I think all depends on the extracellular substrate here mentioned. $\endgroup$
    – thexeno
    Jun 19 '21 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure how meaningful it is to attempt to separate an organism from the context in which it normally lives in this manner. Consider the fate of deep sea creatures brought to the surface. $\endgroup$
    – jakebeal
    Jun 19 '21 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ Meaningful not quite. I thought more from a physical point of view. I began to work with e-ink displays which are using very small spheres. That made me think over different type of simple particles how result at a bigger scale, just with those particles. Then the curiosity was steered toward complex, not obvious structures, like bacteria, cells or viruses. To keep the same analogy, the thought was considering just the living creature, but in neutral atmosphere - therefore is a pure hypothetical situation, where a physics can answer, but physics are unaware of living creature dynamics. $\endgroup$
    – thexeno
    Jun 19 '21 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed the example of the fish makes sense, it cannot be considered out of the deep sea, neither the concept of (perceived) consistency of an object might look the same in such extreme pressure. Nice catch! But I think hypothetically bacteria have a theorized "consistency" at our pressures, so I thought it would be possible to imagine it (like in the xkcd comic) - hence why I asked biologists, not chemists. $\endgroup$
    – thexeno
    Jun 19 '21 at 21:03

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