#3. A Bacteria That Eats Poison and Makes Electricity
Quick, what's the first thing that comes in your mind when we say "bacteria"? If there's even one amongst you who answered that question with "electricity," then chances are you're either a lying bastard or Charles Milliken of the Medical University of South Carolina. In which case, can we call you Chuck?
Chuck and his colleague, Harold May, are microbiologists with a rather interesting feather in their matching scientist caps: They have found a form of bacteria that is able to generate electricity. The bacteria in question is a member of a genus known as Desulfitobacterium, and although bacteria has proven before its ability to produce small amounts of electricity, this genus of bacteria apparently has never really applied itself. We have no idea why it has decided to make electricity now.
To power tiny, tiny guitars.
Presumably it just saw an opportunity to be helpful and give us something in return since we keep giving it all those delicious bleaches, pesticides and chemicals to absorb; the Desulfitobacterium makes its electricity as a by-product of making toxic waste harmless.
We're not talking about barely measurable sparks here -- the research has only begun, but already the two scientists have studied batches that are capable of continuously generating electricity at levels that could be used to operate small electronic devices. So if you've ever had a hankering for a germ-powered vibrator, your dream is close to realization.
Pleasure: Powered by STDs.
#2. The Gulf of Mexico Microbe That Eats Oil Slicks
For those of you who don't remember much of 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was one of the hottest topics and biggest disasters of the year. For three agonizing months, the oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, while the world watched in horror and the BP management seemingly spent their time seeing how far up their asses they could fit their own heads.
The spill fucked the Gulf of Mexico up thoroughly and the sheer insane amount of oil (205.8 million gallons!) that leaked into the ocean made the Exxon Valdez disaster seem like the oil stain in somebody's driveway.
Then, two weeks after the plugging of the BP spill, we started getting reports that said that half of the oil was ... gone.
"Must have been birds. Those damn things will steal anything that's glued to their bodies."
Now, science has long been aware of oil-eating bacteria. Specialized germs have evolved to get their nutrition from underwater oil leaks that happen all the time due to sea bottom earthquakes. Some scientists had even stepped forward with the theory that the BP spill may cause a feeding frenzy among them (the bacteria, not the scientists). But what came as a complete surprise to everyone involved was the speed at which they slurped up the oil. Some of the disappeared oil ended up on the seafloor, sure, but, with time, the bacteria will likely eat that, too.
The spill still messed up the coastline, possibly forever, but it's nice to see nature stepping in like a mad parent to help us clean up the horrific mess we made.
"Aw, not all over the Atlantic! I've just cleaned that!"
#1. The E. Coli Bacterium That Poops Biofuel
Have you ever eaten cheap takeout or fast food, only to spend the rest of the night sobbing between explosive bouts of diarrhea and puking? Chances are, you made acquaintances with Escherichia coli, or E.coli bacteria.
Meet E.Coli. After poisoning you, he'll drink all your beer and forget to call you.
Some types of E.coli are potentially lethal, although it usually settles for giving you the shits and keeping the giggles for itself. And it's difficult as hell to avoid. The burger flipping guy forgot to wash his hands? E.coli. The meat was undercooked? E.coli. You ate at Taco Bell? The only ingredient they USE is E.coli.
The third taco is currently being pumped from a guy's stomach.
But E.coli gets a bad rap. The good kind of E.coli actually is a big part of the ecosystem of your gut, happily living in your intestines and helping to keep that whole system working. So maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that it might help save the world.
E.coli itself is a living organism, and as such it has to eat too. It can metabolize a number of energy sources, but it has a real craving for only one -- namely, glucose. And why not? Who doesn't love sugar? OK, other than diabetics, smartass.
Easter eggs: clusterbombs against the elderly.
Now, scientist have been interested in glucose for a long time, particularly in its ability to convert to biofuel. And, as it turns out, one of the stranger but potentially easy ways of achieving this conversion is through the digestion of bacteria. So, ideally we could make some poor bacteria eat up so much glucose that it shits fuel like a fire hose.
Sweet disgusting revenge.
Now, if only there was some form of bacteria that really enjoyed its glucose ...
Currently, E.coli bacteria are being bioengineered to eat their preferred junk food just like before -- but, in a delicious twist of fate, now it's their turn to crap. And what they crap is totally renewable biofuel.
And what we crap occasionally makes it into a taco. That's the circle of life.
And check out why Mother Nature is having to clean up after us in 6 Natural Disasters That Were Caused by Human Stupidity and Man's 6 Most Ridiculous Attempts To Take On Mother Nature.