With no meal for 86 million years, and barely enough oxygen to sustain metabolism, can a single-celled organism really be considered alive? Yes, but only just, according to a new study. A microbial community buried under the ocean floor since the mid-Jurassic era is still hanging on. Their tenacity could pose some interesting questions for the hunt for alien life.
Aside from ancient Mars, the moons of Saturn might be one of the best places to look for life outside this planet. The methane lakes of Titan are promising places, but so are the spewing plumes of ice on Enceladus — and the latter would be an easy one to check, as it turns out.
Next-generation Mars rovers might not need solar panels or plutonium packs for juice — they’ll bring microbes with them to use in fuel cells. The Naval Research Laboratory is working on potential fuel cell designs that will provide lasting power via the reproductive cycle of bacteria astronauts.
Raw sewage is apparently a gold mine for virologists in search of new quarry — it contains thousands of previously unknown virus species, according to a new study. Hopefully this unique finding will justify the nasty task of sifting through sewage for science.
Last December, Felisa Wolfe-Simon announced the discovery of a microbe that could change the way we understand life in the universe. Soon she found herself plunged into a maelstrom of bitter backlash and intemperate criticism. A dispatch from the frontiers of the new peer review
By Tom Clynes
Posted 09.26.2011 at 10:04 am 55 Comments
This should have been Felisa Wolfe-Simon’s moment in the sun. But as the television crew takes positions, the 34-year-old scientist glances at the gray, churned-up lake behind her and gathers her collar around her neck. On cue, she begins her explanation of this lake’s unique chemistry, her voice rising in volume and pitch above the wind.
Hydrogen fuel cells could someday meet a host of industrial energy needs, but it’s difficult and dirty to produce hydrogen using current methods. A new type of microbial fuel cell can power itself and produce a renewable supply of hydrogen, according to researchers at Penn State University. The system uses some seawater, some freshwater and bacteria.
By Nick Statt
Posted 09.14.2011 at 10:30 am 34 Comments
Enough to fill a big soup can. “That’s three to five pounds of bacteria,” says Lita Proctor, the program coordinator of the National Institutes of Health’s Human Microbiome Project, which studies the communities of bacteria living on and in us. The bacteria cells in our body outnumber human cells 10 to 1, she says, but because they are much smaller than human cells, they account for only about 1 to 2 percent of our body mass—though they do make up about half of our body’s waste.
A new strain of the gonorrhea bacteria can resist all available antibiotics, doctors say. Gonorrhea is one of the world’s most common sexually transmitted diseases, so this could portend a major threat to public health.
This should actually not be surprising, because for some time now, just one class of drug has been able to successfully treat the infection.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.