Saturday, October 11, 2008

One-Organism Ecosystem Discovered in African Gold Mine

By Alexis Madrigal EmailOctober 09, 2008 | 1:19:38 PM Categories: Bacteria


In the hot, dark water of a South African mine, scientists have found the world's loneliest species.

Everywhere else biologists have studied life on our planet, they've found communities of life, but today, biologists announced they have discovered an ecosystem that contains just a single species of bacteria.

In all other known ecosystems, the key functions of life -- harvesting energy and elements like carbon and nitrogen from the environment -- have been shared among different species. But in the water of the Mponeng gold mine, two miles under the earth's surface, Desulforudis audaxviator carries out all of those functions by itself. In short, it's the tidiest package of life found yet.

Viatorgenome "It is possible to pack everything necessary for maintaining life into one genome," said Dylan Chivian of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

All known life forms need carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and an energy source to live. Plants need nitrogen, but can't just pull it from the atmosphere and start using it to make amino acids. Instead, they rely on archaea for that task. Interconnections like these form the basis of an ecosystem, often cheesily called the 'web of life'.

What makes D. audaxviator so special is that its genome, cobbled together from bacterial and archaeal genes, can carry out all life's functions by itself.

That could make the bug a prime candidate for any attempt to see if Earth's microbes could live in some other extreme environment within the solar system.

"Since it could live on its own on Earth, if it were given a matching habitat elsewhere, it could live," said Chivian. 

Images: 1. Inside a tunnel in the Mponeng mine. Courtesy Anglo Gold. 2. D. audaxviator's genome annotated by Chivian. Courtesy Science.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Republican Ticket

The choice of govener Palin by McCain as his running mate struck me as a brilliant move of the republican nomination. The pair turns out to be reinventing hypocrisy however, as Stephen Colbert pointed out early on. 

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Samantha Bee's Two Alternative Forced ... ehm ...? You know...

Samantha Bee is really funny... And republican delegates are too...!

Sarah Palin's Star Turn

Even in the Netherlands the media were deeply impressed by Sarah Palin's speach at the RNC. Fortunately Jon Stewart and the Daily show are a bit more critical... although maybe a tiny bit biased...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Weapons of Math Instruction

The following disstressing news was spread to me through mailing lists.
NEW YORK - A public school teacher was arrested today at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule, and a calculator. At a morning press conference, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction. "Al-gebra is a problem for us," Gonzalez said. "They desire solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a search of absolute value. They use secret code names like 'x' and 'y' and refer to themselves as 'unknowns,' but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country. As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, 'There are 3 sides to every triangle.' 'When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had wanted us to have better Weapons of Math Instruction, He would have given us more fingers and toes." White House aides told reporters they could not recall a more profound statement ever made by the president.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Just Go Dutch

Normally I'm not much of a chauvinist... Or at least that's what I'd like to believe. But these days, with the Euro 2008 tournament and all, it seems to be not such a bad thing to be a bit in the "Oranje" mood. At least, that's what the people of Bern, Switzerland, think. And everyone seems to want to be Dutch (or learn it). This Brit (of all people) even has set up a website to help you to just go dutch:  Only the orange is not always appreciated, apparently... Funny! :D