Saturday, February 21, 2009

New type of fuel found in Patagonia fungus

My love affair with fungus continues... and another "myco" term is coined!

A team led by a Montana State University professor has found a fungus that produces a new type of diesel fuel, which they say holds great promise.

Calling the fungus' output "myco-diesel," Gary Strobel and his collaborators describe their initial observations in the November issue of Microbiology.

The discovery may offer an alternative to fossil fuels, said Strobel, MSU professor of plant sciences and plant pathology. The find is even bigger, he said, than his 1993 discovery of fungus that contained the anticancer drug taxol.

Strobel, who travels the world looking for exotic plants that may contain beneficial microbes, found the diesel-producing fungus in a Patagonia rainforest. Strobel visited the rainforest in 2002 and collected a variety of specimens, including the branches from an ancient family of trees known as "ulmo." When he and his collaborators examined the branches, they found fungus growing inside. They continued to investigate and discovered that the fungus, called "Gliocladium roseum," was producing gases. Further testing showed that the fungus -- under limited oxygen -- was producing a number of compounds normally associated with diesel fuel, which is obtained from crude oil.

"These are the first organisms that have been found that make many of the ingredients of diesel," Strobel said. "This is a major discovery."

Strobel is the lead author of the paper published in Microbiology. His MSU co-authors are Berk Knighton and Tom Livinghouse in the Department of Chemistry/Biochemistry, and Katreena Kluck and Yuhao Ren in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology. Other co-authors are Meghan Griffin and Daniel Spakowicz from Yale University and Joe Sears from the Center for Lab Services in Pasco, Wash.

Strobel doesn't know when drivers will fill their gas tanks with fungi fuel or if processors can make enough to fill the demand. The road to commercialization is filled with potential glitches, he said. It's also a major endeavor that will be left to others who specialize in those areas.

Myco-diesel could be an option for those who want alternatives even to ethanol, however, Strobel said. Some car manufacturers who shun ethanol might consider myco-diesel or fuels produced by other microbes.

"The question is, are there other microbes out there that can do for us?" he asked.

Researchers in government agencies and private industry have already shown interest in the fungi. A team to conduct further research has been established between MSU's College of Engineering and researchers at Yale University. One member of the team is Strobel's son, Scott, who is chairman of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. The MSU-Yale team will investigate a variety of questions, including the genetic makeup of "Gliocladium roseum."

"The main value of this discovery may not be the organism itself, but may be the genes responsible for the production of these gases," Gary Strobel said."There are certain enzymes that are responsible for the conversion of substrates such as cellulose to myco-diesel."

Scott Strobel said his team is already screening the fungus' genome. Besides determining the complete genetic makeup of the fungus, they will run a series of genetic and biochemical tests to identify the genes responsible for its diesel-making properties.

"The broader question is, what is responsible for the production of these compounds," Scott Strobel said. "If you can identify that, you can hopefully scale it up so you end up with better efficiency of production."

Scott Strobel said he agrees with his father that the discovery is exciting.

There's nothing in the scientific literature about a microbe that produces the diversity of medium-chain hydrocarbons found in the "Gliocladium roseum," he said. Longer hydrocarbon chains are common, but "that's not what you put in your gas tank or jet engine."

Another promising aspect is that the fungus can grow in cellulose.

"That's the most common organic molecule on earth," Scott Strobel said. "It's all around us, everywhere."

Scientists in a variety of disciplines should be able to work together to optimize production and find a way to turn what is essentially a vapor into a burnable, liquid fuel, he added.

Source : Montana State University

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Video: "Annie Lennox - Shining Light"


New Annie Lennox song & video - Yay! Eric.
This is the brand new single from Annie Lennox (a cover version of Ash's 'Shining Light)

Shining light is released as a single in the UK on 2nd March. (For best results watch in high quality).

It also features as one of two new songs on the stunning new album "The Annie Lennox Collection" released:

17th Feb - USA
9th March - Europe.

Find out more at :
Please remember to rate , comment, subscribe and favorite.

Annie Lennox Shining Light from the album 'The Annie Lennox Collection'
(C) 2009 La Lennoxa Limited under exclusive license to Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

When Scientific Weekly Goes Tabloid...

Worms 'N Us: A look at 8 parasitic worms that live in humans
Take a trip through Scientific American's Worm Gallery and meet the charming, slinky creatures that turn your innards into their home sweet home


Shattering News: Electro-Pulse Technology Speeds Ice Removal
New de-icing technique promises to zap ice off of cars, airplanes and bridges in seconds

People in Love Are Blind to Pretty Faces
A built-in aversion to attractive members of the opposite sex may help cement monogamous relationships

Why remove a kidney through the vagina?
The pros and cons of removing organs through natural openings in the body

Lunacy and the Full Moon
Does a full moon really trigger strange behavior?

Why does Sarah Palin support shooting wolves in Alaska?
If we really want more moose, we should be shooting bears instead, says a Vermont wildlife biologist

After 1,000 years, the milu returns to the wild
Few species have come as close to extinction as the milu deer and survived

Where are old memories stored in the brain?
A new study evaluates how and where people store memories in the brain

How Meat Contributes to Global Warming
Producing beef for the table has a surprising environmental cost: it releases prodigious amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases

The Naked Singularity Meets Social Media
Scientific American Editor in Chief John Rennie talks about the content of the February issue, including naked singularities and the greenhouse hamburger. N.Y.U. journalism professor Jay Rosen discusses social media

The Scent of Sexual Sweat
Do you like the scent of your Valentine? The Journal of Neuroscience reports that certain regions in women's brains are activated when they smell "sexual sweat"

Caterpillar Does Great Ant Impression
In a study in the journal Science, researchers report that blue butterfly caterpillars infiltrate red ant colonies and grub food by mimicking the raspy sound of the ant queen

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Winter Roasted Fish With Orange-Lemon Sauce

Ok - corny recipe name alert - but cooked this up Friday night - it was fantastic. I didn't deviate from the recipe except I threw in a shallot (caution to the wind!) and then completely went stupid after taking the pan out of the oven back to the stove-top to make the sauce and grabbed the pan handle with my bare hand. So - I have a blistery line across my palm this morning [kitchen mishap #378].


Winter Roasted Fish With Orange-Lemon Sauce
The Washington Post, February 4, 2009

• Course: Main Course
• Features: Fast


This recipe borrows from a Sicilian salad combination of oranges, fennel and black olives. But a homemade winter-fruit marmalade provides more flavor than fresh citrus alone; thin slices of orange are used as a garnish in the finished dish.

Small, flat fennel and thick-cut fish work best here. (If using different white-fleshed, skinless fish fillets such as black sea bass or Arctic char, which are not as thick as the swordfish called for here, reduce cooking times accordingly.) Use an ovenproof skillet so preparation can slip easily from the stove top to the oven and back to the stove top for the final cooking.

Serve with, or on top of, a simple risotto; a half-cup of the marmalade could be stirred into it just before serving.

4 servings


• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (3/4 cup)
• 1 small flat fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and finely chopped (about 3/4 cup), with fronds reserved for garnish
• 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade orange-lemon marmalade (see related recipe)
• 20 pitted whole Gaeta or kalamata (black) olives
• 1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
• 15 grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
• 1 1/2 pounds (1 large piece) 1 1/2-inch-thick, skinless fish fillet, such as swordfish
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
• 1 small orange, cut into thin slices, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir to coat evenly. Reduce the heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the onion has softened and picked up some color.

Add the fennel and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring, or until it has softened. Turn off the heat and add the marmalade and olives; stir to mix well. Let sit for a few minutes; the skillet's heat will melt the marmalade slightly and release some liquid from the olives to form a light sauce. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl, then add the parsley and tomato halves; toss to combine.

Place the skillet over medium-high heat; add the remaining oil.

While the oil is heating, season the fish with salt and pepper to taste, then lightly dust with flour, shaking off any excess. Place the fillet in the skillet; sear for about 1 1/2 minutes on each side, using 2 spatulas to gently turn it over.

Spoon the sauce mixture over the fish, then transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Use 2 spatulas to transfer the fish to a serving platter while you finish the sauce.

Place the skillet over high heat on the stove top; add the wine to deglaze it, using a wooden spoon or spatula to dislodge any browned bits in the skillet. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or just long enough for the wine to reduce by half.

Divide the fillet into equal individual portions. Spoon the sauce over the fish; garnish with the reserved fennel fronds and orange slices. Serve warm.

Recipe Source:
From Bonnie Shershow, owner of Bonnie's Jams in Cambridge, Mass.

523 calories, 38g fat, 6g saturated fat, 100mg cholesterol, 401mg sodium, 15g carbohydrates, 5g dietary fiber, 2g sugar, 34g protein.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick for The Washington Post.
E-mail the Food Section at with recipe questions.
© 2007 The Washington Post Company

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Wall Color Survey -

or, Where the Head of the Corporation Gets Stuck.

Ok - I am working temporarily at the company I left early in 2008. It - like a lot of companies is dealing w/ the economic voodoo going on. So - things like the fabled 401k match is gone - and salaries frozen - and bonuses nixed. Everyone still has jobs - so good is good.

But then they send out email blasts that ponder things that definitely should be put on hold as well. Today's example that made my head and left elbow hurt: the new "lean & green" office they built less than 2 years ago with all new everything - they sent out a poll to the entire office to vote on accent colors to zazz the place up - will it be orange, or yellow, purple or chartreuse - vote early and vote often! Money well spent, I am sure.


Now - mind you a few years ago - I was hot and heavy in the campaign for the blue M&M - but that's more of a faith-based decision...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Simon's Cat 'TV Dinner'

Ha ha - this reminds me exactly of our alien resident. Review of Fablehaven Review of Fablehaven

Likeable book - passed on to me by my nephew. Not quite as complex as Harry Potter (which is actually charming) - but not as spell-binding as the Spiderwick books. I do really like Kendra's sensibility & spirit - and while the rambunctious nature of her brother Seth is an expectation for a boy his age - his completely spastic inability to contain himself repeatedly to his own detriment is over the top. It tempers as the book goes on - but is disappointing for quite a while. The formula of this book is well-worn by a growing number of authors lately - it's always odd to see that Obert Skye is on the front of the book with a dull quip, "it's a lucky book that can hold this kind of story" when he is out there concurrently shilling his own take on this same formula. Although he does have a point - Fablehaven is a good find in a book. I still wish the older Alan Garner series could have a resurgence - if anything as a next step to show that you can depict that the main characters are kids/brother/sister but that they can be clever and smart, too. Like a next step into Charles DeLint... Fablehaven gets its own voice and strength in Kendra's spirited awakening near the book's end - where she has to stop holding back and hesitating and take action and rescue her family and Fablehaven alone. I am moving on to the 2nd book now...