News and Notes – 6/20/2008

SCIENCE EDITION.

Oil from bugs. Scientists are experimenting with bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol. The bacteria feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw and then excrete crude oil. Senior director Greg Pal gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”.

Fighting cancer. A cancer patient has made a full recovery after being injected with billions of his own immune cells in the first case of its kind, doctors have disclosed. Doctors took cells from the man’s own defence system that were found to attack the cancer cells best, cloned them and injected back into his body, in a process known as “immunotherapy”. The 52-year-old, who was suffering from advanced skin cancer, was free from tumours within eight weeks of undergoing the procedure. After two years he is still free from the disease which had spread to his lymph nodes and one of his lungs.

Ice on Mars? Dice-size crumbs of bright material have vanished from inside a trench where they were photographed by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander four days ago, convincing scientists that the material was frozen water that vaporized after digging exposed it. “It must be ice,” said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson. “These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it’s ice. There had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can’t do that.”

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