Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme…

Anyone who watches science fiction movies is undoubtedly familiar with some version of those words and it never ends well for humankind.
But in real life sometimes it does. As Isaac Asimov once said,
“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…'”

In this case that ominous-sounding sentence ends with… “that eats plastic bottles” 

The breakthrough, spurred by the discovery of plastic-eating bugs at a Japanese dump, could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis.

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 even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. “It’s great and a real finding.”

The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.

“What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” said McGeehan. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.”

About 1m plastic bottles are sold each minute around the globe and, with just 14% recycled, many end up in the oceans where they have polluted even the remotest parts, harming marine life and potentially people who eat seafood. “It is incredibly resistant to degradation. Some of those images are horrific,” said McGeehan. “It is one of these wonder materials that has been made a little bit too well.”

However, currently even those bottles that are recycled can only be turned into opaque fibres for clothing or carpets. The new enzyme indicates a way to recycle clear plastic bottles back into clear plastic bottles, which could slash the need to produce new plastic.

“You are always up against the fact that oil is cheap, so virgin PET is cheap,” said McGeehan. “It is so easy for manufacturers to generate more of that stuff, rather than even try to recycle. But I believe there is a public driver here: perception is changing so much that companies are starting to look at how they can properly recycle these.”

Source The Guardian UK

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Vote on the 2018 Haight Street Fair posters at RVCA

For a limited time the finalists for the 2018 Haight Ashbury Street Fair posters will be in the window of RVCA at the corner of Haight and Ashbury for people to go in and vote for.

#1, the only hand-drawn one:

2018HS#1

#2, featuring Gus Vardakastanis, founder of the Haight St Market (now Gus’s) is  a sentimental favorite (and my own)

2018HS#2

#3, the only entry I’ve ever seen with a dog as its focus

2018HS#3

#4 uses Gene Anthony famous (and still copyrighted) photo of the old Ashbury-Haight sign

2018HS#4

#5, visually attractive. It would be my choice if I didn’t want to honor Gus.

2018HSF#5

 

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Antique Scientific Instruments, Globes and Cameras Auction

An Austrian auction house is currently conducting a sale of an amazing variety of antique scientific instruments that even if you can’t afford them, are delightful to explore.
Here’s a few of the items:

There are over 162 items to choose from.

 

Source: Antique Scientific Instruments, Globes and Cameras – 4.4.2018 – Dorotheum

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The 12,400km by 200m Nature Preserve

The European Green Belt initiative is a grassroots movement for nature conservation and sustainable development along the corridor of the former Iron Curtain. The term refers to both an environmental initiative as well as the area it concerns. The initiative is carried out under the patronage of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Mikhail Gorbachev. It is the aim of the initiative to create the backbone of an ecological network that runs from the Barents Sea in the Arctic to the Black and Adriatic Seas.

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 11.05.12 PM

The European Green Belt as an area follows the route of the former Iron Curtain and connects national parks, nature parks, biosphere reserves and transboundary protected areas as well as non-protected valuable habitats along or across the former borders. So far 6,800km of the intended 12,400km Green Belt have been established.

This guide is published by the Union for Environmentand Nature Protection of Germany and  explains if graphic detail both how the original sealed border operated and how it has been transformed into a unique nature preserve:

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SF Chronicle’s Marijuana Section

Today’s Sunday paper has a 32 page magazine dedicated to marijuana. Printed on polished newsprint, the magazine covers the heath effects, the consumption, sale, and cultivation of the ‘Yerba Buena.’It’s ads:

are quite expensive-looking.
In a time of shrinking newspaper sales and sizes it’s good to see the paper getting a nice bonus.
It’s bitterly ironic to see in that paper since is owned by the Hearst corporation and it was because of William Randolph Hearst that the US has suffered through 70 years of a stupid prohibition that exactly like the one on alcohol, succeeded only in the creation of organized crime syndicates.
And Hearst didn’t do it because it was a drug. He did it to protect his lumber and paper businesses because he knew that better quality paper could be made from hemp for less cost.
His greed ruined the lives of too many Americans to count and has been used for the last 50 years to militarize the police and to build an industry of for-profit prisons.

Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

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ABC Scrap Books

A few years ago I went to New York City for my daughter Aurora’s graduation from NYU and during my stay in there I created this alphabet of collected images.  (the ‘C’ is a link of chain, not dog feces, honest)

 

And when I took a volunteer vacation in Mexico a few years ago, I created this one in the Ciudad Mexico:

 

When I went to the UK for the 60s exhibit  You Say You Want a Revolution at the Victoria & Albert Museum I created 2 collections, one in London:

 

And one on the Brighton Pier:

 

And recently it occurred to me that while I live in one of the most colorful and popular tourist destinations in San Francisco, the Haight Ashbury, I had never created one for it. It took me about an hour to gather them today:

 

Looking back at the albums from previous years brought a flood of very enjoyable memories.

I’m headed back to NYC to see Aurora get her well-earned Masters degree and am planning to create another.

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Stephen Hawking, science’s brightest star, dies aged 76 

I am very proud of the letter I got back from Dr Hawking when I sent him a copy of my black velvet portrait of him:

He once said: “It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.”

For fellow scientists and loved ones, it was Hawking’s intuition and wicked sense of humour that marked him out as much as the fierce intellect that, coupled with his illness, came to symbolise the unbounded possibilities of the human mind.

“Stephen was far from being the archetypal unworldy or nerdish scientist. His personality remained amazingly unwarped by his frustrations,” said Lord Rees, the astronomer royal, who praised Hawking’s half century of work as an “inspiring crescendo of achievement.” He added: “Few, if any, of Einstein’s successors have done more to deepen our insights into gravity, space and time.”

The Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield lamented on Twitter that “Genius is so fine and rare”, while the US rock band Foo Fighters was more succinct, calling Hawking a “fucking legend.”

Stephen’s deal with the Simpsons was that could use his image for free but he got to record his lines. He once called the show the “best thing on American television.”

Excellent obituary: Stephen Hawking, science’s brightest star, dies aged 76 | Science | The Guardian

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Haight & Clayton Sidewalk Art

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Falcon Heavy Test Flight: A Momentous Event

The world’s newest, most powerful rocket in decades has reached space. It took a few weather delays Tuesday, but the private space company SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy rocket from the Kennedy Space Center.

Watch the video of the launch at the top of this page. (If you’d like to skip ahead to the very moment the rocket lifts off, you can find it about 29:50 into the video.)

Not long after the massive craft blasted off NASA’s historic Launch Pad 39A, arcing a fiery path through the sky, its side boosters fell away. As the main rocket continued its journey into space, two of the boosters returned to Earth, landing successfully back on their designated pads.

“SpaceX lands its rockets so it can reuse them again,” NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce reports. “That’s how it’s trying to make space flight cheaper.”

Falcon Heavy is yet the latest example of that quest to make it much cheaper to get things into orbit. According to the company, it will cost just $90 million per launch, a fraction of the price of similar heavy-lift rockets.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder, has said the ultimate goal is to make humans an interplanetary species, by creating a colony on Mars.

Falcon Heavy is a small step on that journey, but it is still a very large machine. Weighing in at over 1,500 tons, it can carry more stuff into space than any vehicle since the Saturn V rockets of the Apollo Era.

Onboard this flight is a car made by one of Musk’s other companies, Tesla. The cherry red roadster — complete with an unpaid intern wearing a spacesuit, naturally — is heading into an elliptical Earth-Mars orbit.

At a news conference Monday, Musk said three cameras mounted to the car should provide “epic views.”

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Don’t Look Down! 5

More vertically exciting images, .gifs, and this video:

Some of these made my heart pound a bit:

I generally don’t include rock climbers or parachutists because they usually have safety equipment on and are safe. It’s the free climbers and the crazy urban climbers that impress me.

Most of these were collected from Acid Cow, a very entertaining blog.

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