Scientists at San Diego–based Genomatica, Inc., have announced success in manipulating the bacteria to directly produce butanediol (BDO), a chemical compound used to make
everything from spandex to car bumpers, thereby providing a more
energy-efficient way of making it without oil or natural gas.
"We have engineered the organism such that it has to secrete that product in order for it to grow," says
bioengineer Christophe Schilling, president and co-founder of the
company, launched in 2000 to develop such chemical-producing microbes.
"The interests of the organism are aligned with our interests: It grows
faster when it produces more."
It may not be the sort of thing to discuss over dinner, but research is opening a lively debate on the origin of the anus.
Today, two evolutionary biologists have published genetic evidence in Nature1
that they claim refutes the leading theory of anal evolution. Their
work suggests that the anus may have evolved multiple times in many
different organisms, and they propose that, in some lineages, the anus
may have formed through a fusion of the gut with the reproductive
[A] study by Gueguen et al. (2004) . . . found that higher sound levels lead to people drinking more. In a new study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, Gueguen et al. (2008)
visited a bar in the west of France to confirm their previous finding
in a naturalistic setting. Here, they observed customers' drinking
habits across three Saturday nights, in two different bars in the city.
The level of the music was randomly manipulated
to create the conditions of a true experiment. It was either at its
usual volume of 72dB or turned up to 88dB. For comparison: 72db is like
the sound of traffic on a busy street while 88db is like standing next
to a lawnmower.
Sure enough when the music went up the beers
went down, faster. On average bar-goers took 14.5 minutes to finish a
250ml (8 oz) glass of draught beer when the music was at its normal
level. But this came down to just 11.5 minutes when the music was
turned up. As a result, on average, during their time in the bar each
participant ordered one more drink in the loud music condition than in
the normal music condition.
Research by Ingemar Jönsson and colleagues in Current Biology shows that some animals — the tardigrades, or 'water-bears' — can do away with space suits and can survive exposure to open-space vacuum, cold and radiation just fine.
Scientists have discovered a gene enhancer, known as HACNS1, that may have contributed to the evolution of the uniquely opposable human thumb, and possibly also modifications in the ankle or foot that allow humans to walk on two legs, according to a paper published in Science on Sept. 5, 2008.