Midnight In The Desert — Ecology

Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles

Posted by K R on

Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles. The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug. The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule...

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Mushrooms Might Save The World- If They Don’t Kill Us First

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Mushrooms Might Save The World- If They Don’t Kill Us First

Roy Halling is the New York Botanical Garden’s mushroom man. As curator of mycology—that’s the scientific study of the fungi family, which includes mushroom, mold, and mildew—he splits his time between the lab and the field. On a tour of the Bronx-based herbarium, which houses almost 8 million specimens, Halling told PopSci about the kingdom’s incredible capacity for rot. “Where there’s carbon, there’s a fungus ready to degrade it,” Halling says. The proof that fungi aren’t always fun guys is in everything from medicine to agriculture. Look no further than ringworm, that itchy-scratchy skin infection that can be brought on...

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Your old computer could be a better source of metals than a mine

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Your old computer could be a better source of metals than a mine

From your water-logged phone to your smashed smart TV, those personal electronics headed for the landfill are a potential goldmine. Or copper mine. Or—some day—a lithium mine. Economists already knew that along with the swelling 44.7 million metric tons of electronic waste tossed each year we were throwing out billions of dollars in resources. But quantifying all the gold, copper, iron, plastic, and rare earths languishing in our landfills and recycling centers is only part of the problem. Figuring out whether it’s worthwhile, financially speaking, to sift those resources out of the rubble—instead of continuing to extract them from traditional...

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Trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch Has More Than Quadrupled

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Trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch Has More Than Quadrupled

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is getting denser. The enormous plastic soup floating in the vast North Pacific spans more than 617,000 square miles (1.6 million square kilometers), and its density is now between four and 16 times greater than previous estimates, scientists have found. Researchers made the discovery by looking at the accumulation of plastic trash in the Pacific between California and Hawaii. They found that the patch has more than 87,000 tons (79,000 metric tons) of plastic in it. That equates to 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, or roughly 250 pieces for every person on the planet, the...

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The Hole in Earth's Ozone Layer Is Healing, First-of-Its-Kind Study Shows

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The Hole in Earth's Ozone Layer Is Healing, First-of-Its-Kind Study Shows

Efforts to heal the hole in Earth's ozone layer over Antarctica appear to be paying off, according to a new, first-of-its-kind study that looked directly at ozone-destroying chemicals in the atmosphere. Earth's ozone layer protects the planet's surface from some of the sun's more harmful rays that can cause cancer and cataracts in humans, and damage plant life, according to NASA. In the mid-1980s, researchers identified a massive hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica and determined that it had been caused largely by human-produced chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Previous satellite observations have observed changes in the size of the...

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