Links for 20-10-2006

Bumper edition! Life found underground, debunking bad science journalism, the transparent factory, Spamhaus, kite power, space elevator contest, Second Life reportage…

3 thoughts on “Links for 20-10-2006”

  1. Those uranium bacteria are seriously cool, but they’re hardly the first bacteria discovered that use energy not somehow derived from the sun. There’s the (somewhat well-known) deep vent bacteria, which don’t use sunlight, instead reducing sulfur. (I don’t think they do a lot of environmental scavenging. To be truly independent of the sun, the organism would have to fix both carbon and nitrogen. I have no idea where the uranium bacteria are getting their nitrogen.) Some microbial ecologists think there’s a huge number of bacteria (well, prokaryotes) living in the subsurface crust and reducing various elements — I’ve heard people say that the total biomass might exceed the surface biomass.

    I think New Scientist might have lost something in their telling. I’ll have to read the cited paper tomorrow when I can get to it. (Also, Desulfotomaculum is hardly a new bacterium — it was first described in 1965.)

    My favorite bacteria (other than the ones that make rocket fuel) are the deep-sea photosynthetic bacteria. They live in the deep sea, where the sun doesn’t reach, but they have lots of genes for photosynthetic pathways. One guess is that they use other organisms’ (other bacteria, probably) bioluminescence. (I’d give a citation, but my bookmark seems to be broken.)

    I’m convinced that, at least on this planet, anywhere there’s an energy imbalance, some sort of life will pop up to take advantage of that imbalance. I have a hard time believing that life is so unique that the situation is any different elsewhere in the universe, but I’ve got nothing but speculation to work with there.

    Sorry, geeking out.

  2. Energy fans might find this interesting. A lay person’s guide to nuclear energy’s wacky people, politics and technology is at This thriller novel: “Rad Decision” was written by a longtime industry insider and is provided free online. Readers seem to like it judging from their homepage comments. Also endorsed by Stewart Brand, internet pioneer and founder of The Whole Earth Catalog.

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