Tag Archives: genetic-engineering

Oil You Can Eat: Bacteria Eat Rubbish, Egest Petrol

Splendid news from Silicon Valley: a flotilla of companies, including one called LS9, are now starting toblack_gold genetically engineer bacteria that poop petrol and eat any old rubbish:

Because crude oil (which can be refined into other products, such as petroleum or jet fuel) is only a few molecular stages removed from the fatty acids normally excreted by yeast or E. coli during fermentation, it does not take much fiddling to get the desired result.

For fermentation to take place you need raw material, or feedstock, as it is known in the biofuels industry. Anything will do as long as it can be broken down into sugars, with the byproduct ideally burnt to produce electricity to run the plant.

The key facts are that this is a carbon-neutral method of producing conventional crude oil (and all the good stuff you can get out of crude oil), that doesn’t cause food inflation, consumes waste biomass, and doesn’t require us to spend $billions upgrading our current transport infrastructure to compatibility with hydrogen fuel cells.

The company is not interested in using corn as feedstock, given the much-publicised problems created by using food crops for fuel, such as the tortilla inflation that recently caused food riots in Mexico City. Instead, different types of agricultural waste will be used according to whatever makes sense for the local climate and economy: wheat straw in California, for example, or woodchips in the South.

The main onion in the ointment seems to be the scale required to produce the amount of oil needed:green_oil

However, to substitute America’s weekly oil consumption of 143 million barrels, you would need a facility that covered about 205 square miles, an area roughly the size of Chicago.

This is it: with oil prices continuing to break records and global warming coming around the corner this is the direction we need to go in (unless there’s some other huge problem with it, aside from the Chicago-sized thing?).

[story at Times Online, via Charlie’s Diary][images by nalilo and XcBiker]

Eat it, Crichton

pieeyedemuPaleontologist Jack Horner has a better way to resurrect dinosaurs than all that tedious mucking about with mosquitoes and blood and amber. Far easier to start with a bird and work backwards. Avian DNA already contains instructions to make tailbones, teeth, scales, and claws. In “Dinosaurs: Return to Life?”, a Discovery Channel documentary, Horner says he would start with an emu, which looks halfway like a velociraptor anyway. A chicken would do in a pinch. (Unfortunately, the show does not seem to be scheduled for rerun anytime soon.)

Has Michael Swanwick written this story yet?

[Image by Ryan Ladbrook]

Bad news for cats: scientists make a better mouse

An ordinary mouse If Jerry had been one of these, Tom would never have had a chance: Case Western Reserve University researchers have bred a line of genetically modified "mighty mice" that can run five to six kilometres on a treadmill for up to six hours, at a speed of 20 meters per minutes, without stopping. Not only that, they live and breed longer than mighty mice, and though they eat more, they remain fitter and trimmer than their unmodified cousins. And as if that wasn’t enough to concern cats, the new mice are also markedly more aggressive. (Via Science Daily.)

But don’t go getting any ideas about creating your own line of super soldiers for world domination. Richard W. Hanson, lead author of the newly published paper about the achievement, is quick to squelch any such science fictional thoughts:

"The technique used to create the animal model reported in our study is not appropriate for application to humans. The ethical implications are such that this approach should not be used in humans, or is it technically possible at this time to efficiently introduce genes into human skeletal muscle, in order to mimic the effect seen in our mice" said Hanson. "Any attempt to tamper with the metabolic processes in human muscle will surely do more harm than good. We believe that this mouse model will provide important insights into the impact of prolonged exercise on the development of cancer in the animal, the effect of diet and exercise on longevity and will increase our knowledge of the factors that regulate energy metabolism in skeletal muscle."

You can view a video of a wild mouse and a mighty mouse on a treadmill here. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

[tags]genetic engineering, biology, mice[/tags]

Engineering plants for fun and profit – and bettering our future

Time was, genetic engineers were putting jellyfish genes in everything to see what crazy animals they could get to glow in the dark.  Now, however, they’re doing quite a bit more.  The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has a few articles on various uses for genetically modified plants.  Two papers discuss using trees to remove harmful chemicals from the atmosphere, the third identifies a way to modify the Chlamy (a green alga) to produce hydrogen.  It seems that algae may be the future of biofuels, after a report on using algae to produce a type of biodiesel.

(image via IRRI Images)


Frequent Futurismic contributor Ruth Nestvold has done it again with “The Other Side Of Silence” – a disturbing tale about the future of executive entertainment.

[ IMPORTANT NOTICE: This story is NOT covered by the Creative Commons License that covers the majority of content on Futurismic; copyright remains with the author, and any redistribution is a breach thereof. Thanks. ]

The Other Side Of Silence

by Ruth Nestvold

“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.”

– George Eliot, Middlemarch

Judith went through the pile of data cubes one more time, hoping she had just overlooked the game somehow. It was uncanny the way children always seemed to know instinctively when interruptions would be most inconvenient for their parents. She had a deadline in less than a week, an environment for Chrysalis Biotechnics, the biggest, most powerful company in their corporate zone in Portland. It could make or break her career as environmental artist. Continue reading THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE by Ruth Nestvold