June 15th, 2008

Aye-Aye

mutant 59: the garbage eater

The Times is reporting that scientists have developed bacteria which can turn waste into crude oil.
You're all probably too young to remember, but the late Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis tackled something not too dissimilar almost forty years ago in their novel Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater, where a bacterium engineered to break down plastic waste gets out of the laboratory and starts attacking plastic that isn't waste, such as the plastic in airliners.
I can see, with only a little tweaking, a similar novel about the oil-making bug. Although I am heartened by the line in the article that, in order to satisfy America's petrol needs, you'd have to have a factory the size of Chicago. Of course, you don't really need a factory the size of Chicago - you just need lots of smaller factories scattered around the country. But what happens when you run out of feedstock, as would inevitably happen fairly quickly with an operation that size? And would we want it, anyway? As things are right now, if we haven't already irretrievably karked the planet up, the only thing standing between us and catastrophe is the fact that oil reserves will run out sooner rather than later and we're being forced to look at alternatives. If we can be guaranteed a source of oil from somewhere else, won't all the alternative research projects just dry up and blow away?
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Aye-Aye

humph

Earlier today, Radio 4 broadcast a tribute to Humphrey Lyttleton. It was as funny and as affectionate as you'd expect, and it served as a reminder just how filthy I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue could be, if you were that way minded. You can listen to it again here. I'm a little confused, because the `listen again to this programme' calls up the radio arm of the BBC iPlayer, which means it may not be available to those of you on the other side of the village pond, although there is an option to listen to it in a stand-alone Realplayer.
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