Tisn’t the Season

Spring is in the air, and Clostridium tetani is in the earth. On Casaubon’s Book, Sharon Astyk writes “with playing in the dirt comes minor injuries that you really don’t want to turn into anything nasty.” Infection through open wounds can be fatal, as the bacterium releases a neurotoxin that causes uncontrolled muscular contractions. So if it’s been ten years or more since your last vaccination, now is a good time for a booster. Meanwhile, Dr. Dolittle shares the amazing winning images of the inaugural Bio-Art competition on Life Lines. From the discharge of electric fish to the branching capillaries of a mouse kidney, serious science is made more accessible through imaging and visualization. And finally, The Weizmann Wave introduces us to the IceCube neutrino detector at the South Pole, where 5,000 detectors arrayed in a cubic kilometer of ice wait for weakly interacting massive particles. A summer day in Antarctica can reach 40°C below—but south of the equator, winter is just around the corner.

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Barrel Bottoms Up

On Earth Day, Greg Laden took the opportunity to thank BP for the “modifications made to the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico” by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Surviving specimens of coral “have been provided with hip new color schemes (mainly black and blackish),” while creatures such as shrimp and crabs exhibit physical deformities “which will surely make them easier to catch and, according to BP, does not affect their edibility.” Crude oil is organic, after all, as Kevin Bonham reminds us on We Beasties. He says “it turns out that nearly million barrels of oil naturally seeps out of the sea floor every year,” and microbes are used to eating the stuff. Bonham concludes “after the BP spill, these populations bloomed, and are still busily breaking down all that oil for food – perhaps as much as 40% by the time it’s all said and done.” Meanwhile, Sharon Astyk shares new EIA data on Casaubon’s Book, revealing that crude production has remained flat since 2005. Like it or not, oil is a limited resource—and it could soon be last call.