And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
We really need to find an alternative to taking carbon out of the ground, burning it, and putting it into the atmosphere. That is the single biggest contribution I could make.
The bugs, discovered a mile underground by one of Venter’s microbial prospecting teams, are said to have unique enzymes that can break down coal.
Venter even suggested the discovery could open up the world’s coalfields to an entirely new form of mining, where coal is infected with the bacteria, allowing methane to be harvested “without even digging up the coal”.He said: “We have a large number that eat coal and break it down into organic acids, hydrogen, CO2 and so on. Then we have other organisms with enzymes that can take those organic acids, hydrogen and CO2 and make methane.”
|Craig Venter's synthetic bacteria|
Dr Venter has created an artificial version of the DNA – the set of chemical instructions which determine what an individual cell will build and reproduce – for a very simple form of bacteria, and has inserted this into a cell from which the original DNA had been removed. The bacterium reproduced itself normally, using Dr Venter's version of the DNA (from which he had removed about 100 genes), eventually creating more than a billion copies.
A marriage of poetry and science – Craig Venter, our heroine, Kate Stanton, would salute you for this combination.The researchers deliberately inserted four sequences of DNA that serve as watermarks so they could distinguish between the naturally occurring and synthetic bacteria. The watermarks contain a code that translates DNA into English letters with punctuation, allowing the scientists to literally write messages with the genes. When translated, the watermarks spell out the names of the 46 researchers who helped with the project, quotations from James Joyce, physicist Richard Feynman and J. Robert Oppenheimer, and a URL that anyone who deciphers the code can e-mail.