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The Villages

Date: 2008-06-15 22:47
Subject: mutant 59: the garbage eater
Security: Public
Location:the utility room in the sky
Music:talk talk
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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User: robsoft
Date: 2008-06-16 07:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ooh, isn't that also one of the stages in The Andromeda Strain? The disease/bacteria (heh, I'm useless with technical stuff) went through a phase of eating plastic (or possibly rubber, I can't recall which). There was a memorable bit where it brought down an Airforce jet that had been sent out to fly over the deserted town ('Piedmont', I think).

That was a great book - an early Michael Crichton I think, though I could well be mistaken. It was turned into a pretty-effective movie /years/ ago (it turns up on late-night telly about once a year) and I believe they're either in the process of a remake, or have already done a remake. No doubt with Will Smith and Lindsey 'fucking' Lohan.

Don't really understand why we needed a remake when the original film worked quite well.
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User: hutch0
Date: 2008-06-16 21:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yes, you're right, I remember that bit. The jet's flying over Piedmont and the pilot's oxygen mask starts to crumble into dust. Very creepy. Although a little later the General In Charge is visiting the jet's crash site and there's mention of a piece of bone sticking out of the wreckage that's been stripped clean of flesh, which I always took to mean the bacterium/virus/whatever had started to attack flesh. And then Crichton (for 'tis he indeed) doesn't go anywhere with it, which always confused me.
It's not Crichton's first book, but it was the first under his own name, all the way back in 1969, and it's still my favourite of his.
And yes, they have remade it, as a miniseries which I've heard good and bad things about.
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