Monday, December 15, 2003

Too good to be true?

Back in the 70's I heard this joke with good news and bad news. The bad news was that the Martians had landed. The good news was that they excreted gasoline and ate < insert ethnic/racial group here >.

As much as that might appeal to some, we have something better:
WASHINGTON, DC – Department of Energy-funded researchers have decoded and analyzed the genome of a bacterium with the potential to bioremediate radioactive metals and generate electricity. In an article published in the December 12th issue of Science, researchers at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, report that Geobacter sulfurreducens possesses extraordinary capabilities to transport electrons and "reduce" metal ions as part of its energy-generating metabolism.

"The genome of this tiny microorganism may help us to address some of our most difficult cleanup problems and to generate power through biologically-based energy sources," Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said. "Geobacter is an important part of Nature's toolbox for meeting environmental and energy challenges. This genome sequence and the additional research that it makes possible may lead to new strategies and biotechnologies for cleaning up groundwater at DOE and at industry sites."
On the flip side, maybe one of these days someone will come up with a bug that eats petroleum and turns it into CO2 and other byproducts without letting us burn or process it first.

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