In New Zealand, microbes are extracting gold from electronic waste

Cell phones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches: the modern world is packed with a dizzying array of gadgets that bring us connectivity, entertainment and information. Our hunger for the latest models – and the cachet that buying them brings – is such that these pieces of kit have, for some, become readily disposable.

This “throwaway” culture often means consumers are guilty of getting rid of old devices as soon as new ones come to the market, a habit that can have a significant effect on waste streams and the environment.

A recent report found that 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste was produced in 2019, with just 17.4% of this amount “officially documented as properly collected and recycled.”

The Global E-waste Statistics Partnership published the “Global E-waste Monitor 2020” report in July and described e-waste as containing harmful substances including mercury, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons and brominated flame retardants.

It also painted a stark

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Finding Martian Microbes Could Require Digging Miles Underground

NASA’s Perseverance rover is flying to Mars as you read this sentence. It will land there in February 2021 and set aside rocks with promising signs of ancient life, for a future mission to pick up for analysis.

But what about current life on Mars? Are microbes embedded in the ice caps? Perhaps they are sheltering in water runoff in some crater? Or, as some scientists suggest, is life buried miles underground — a difficult spot for us to search, at best?

A new study is trying to figure out ways to hunt for life on worlds that have little or no running water at the surface. One easy answer, in theory, is to look to water reserves underground — and we are pretty sure Mars

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Without oxygen, Earth’s early microbes relied on arsenic to sustain life

microbe
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Much of life on planet Earth today relies on oxygen to exist, but before oxygen was present on our blue planet, lifeforms likely used arsenic instead. These findings are detailed in research published today in Communications Earth and Environment.


A key component of the oxygen cycle is where plants and some types of bacteria essentially take sunlight, water, and CO2, and convert them to carbohydrates and oxygen, which are then cycled and used by other organisms that breathe oxygen. This oxygen serves as a vehicle for electrons, gaining and donating electrons as it powers through the metabolic processes. However, for half of the time life has existed on Earth, there was no oxygen present, and for the first 1.5 billion years, we really don’t how these systems worked, says lead author of the study and UConn Professor of Marine Sciences and Geosciences Pieter

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How microbes in a mother’s intestines affect fetal neurodevelopment — ScienceDaily

During pregnancy in mice, the billions of bacteria and other microbes that live in a mother’s intestines regulate key metabolites, small molecules that are important for healthy fetal brain development, UCLA biologists report Sept. 23 in the journal Nature.

While the maternal gut microbiota has been associated with abnormalities in the brain function and behavior of offspring — often in response to factors like infection, a high-fat diet or stress during pregnancy — scientists had not known until now whether it influenced brain development during critical prenatal periods and in the absence of such environmental challenges.

To test the impact the gut microbiata has on the metabolites and other biochemicals that circulate in maternal blood and nurture the rapidly developing fetal brain, the researchers raised mice that were treated with antibiotics to kill gut bacteria, as well as mice that were bred microbe-free in a laboratory.

“Depleting the maternal

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