The oil dispersants being used in the Gulf of Mexico spill may help destroy the oil a little faster, but their primary purpose is to alter its destination so that the oil stays in the deep ocean rather than reaching the shore. Scientists don't know much about the oil's ultimate effect in the deep water, but most agree that it will have a much larger biological effect if it reaches the coast, which is teeming with wildlife. "You're transferring the pollution, if you will, but under the right circumstances it's probably favorable, " said E. Eric Adams, who specializes in environmental fluid mechanics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Standing amid hundreds of African oil palms, their gray and desiccated fronds drooping to the ground, Edgar Barrera shakes his head and speaks of their death sentence. "What we have is a technological disaster, an economic disaster and a social disaster, " said Barrera, superintendent of the Bucarelia company's 12, 000-acre African palm grove. Barrera is referring to a mysterious, fast-spreading and deadly disease called "PC" that has devastated African palm plantations here in the Magdalena River valley area 200 miles north of Bogota, the capital, and elsewhere in Colombia.
Scientists investigating a flow of blood-red water from beneath an Antarctic glacier have discovered strange bacteria living on sulfur and iron compounds. The scientists believe the pool of water was trapped about 1.5 million years ago when the glacier moved over a lake. Most of the bacteria are descended from marine microorganisms and are able to live without the food and light sources of the open ocean. The findings were reported in Friday's edition of the journal Science.
Researchers have found a clue in the mysterious die-off of bats that has struck the Northeast - a new fungus that so far seems to be present only in bats and in caves where the die-off has occurred. "The fungus is in some way involved in causing the bats to starve to death, " said biologist Thomas Tomasi of Missouri State University in Springfield. "They are burning up too many calories, at a rate faster than they can sustain. " Bat experts are not yet sure, however, whether the fungus is the cause of the widespread deaths or is simply an opportunistic microorganism infecting animals that have already been weakened by some unknown threat.
The Food and Drug Administration will release regulatory guidelines today governing genetic engineering of animals for food, drugs or medical devices. The FDA's regulatory control of animals will be considerably stronger than its oversight of genetically engineered plants and microorganisms.