Could nanotechnology revive an old killer? That's the fear being raised by the discovery that carbon nanotubes shred the lung lining in a similar way to asbestos fibres. Ken Donaldson at the University of Edinburgh, UK, and colleagues injected carbon nanotubes into the abdominal cavity of mice. One week later, the tissue surrounding the abdominal organs of the mice showed a level of inflammation similar to that caused by asbestos exposure.

Make clean fuel or feed the world? That's the dilemma facing biofuel producers now that the world food crisis is making the turning of food crops into biofuel seem increasingly irresponsible. But maybe there's a way out. Mariam Sticklen of Michigan State University in East Lansing and colleagues have engineered a fuel plant to make its own cellulases - a bit like oil that refines itself into petroleum.

Carbon is locked away down in the Earth's crust: in magma and old carbonate rocks buried by plate tectonics, in fossil fuels like coal and oil, and in ice lattices beneath the ocean bed. It has long been assumed that this carbon was largely cut off from the surface, and could safely be ignored when analysing the effect of greenhouse gases on climate. Now it seems there may be much more "deep carbon" ready to spew out than we thought.

A major modelling study forecast that warming of the north Atlantic could make hurricanes scarcer - while the worst ones might have stronger winds and produce more rain. Thomas Knutson and colleagues from NASA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey, have previously produced a remarkably accurate year-by-year "hindcast" of hurricane numbers over the past 30 years. So their prediction of an 18 per cent decline in the annual hurricane count by late this century commands attention.

Modern facades on Victorian buildings in Chicago and other industrial cities of the American Midwest often hide a secret. Scattered through old drugstores and boarded-up banks from Madison to Fort Wayne, curiously shaped glass tiles known as Luxfer prisms lie just a few centimetres behind the paint and plaster. Luxfers were one of the 19th century's greatest innovations in lighting, and an idea that is beginning to make a comeback in our own energy-conscious times.

We've all heard about the deforestation of the Amazon, but what's it like to be caught between the loggers and the people living in the forests? Mauricio Torres is employed by the Brazilian government to monitor this front line. He tells Adrian Barnett how he has come up against corruption and violent aggression - and how his faith lies with the rural poor, who have nothing to lose but the trees.

News from Burma keeps getting worse: dire poverty, murderous repression and now cyclone Nargis has killed some 100,000 people. Disease and starvation could push the toll over the million mark as the country's despots, unbelievably, impede emergency aid while exporting rice - literally making a killing on inflated international prices. Burma is suffering even more than it might because it neglected its farms.

While green campaigners push for ever more wind turbines, a new wave of environmentally motivated engineers is already considering turbines to be a little old-school. One of the pioneers of the concept of a kite as a renewable energy source is Peter Lynn, a New Zealand kite designer.

Gas from rotting manure could fuel the future. Biogas digesters, devices that turn decomposing manure into fuel, are cost-effective, environmentally friendly and improve the health of rural people who use them.

It's the latest in a growing list of health problems linked to air pollution: dangerous blood clots triggered by smog from traffic and factories. If a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) breaks loose from where it forms in the lower leg or thigh and travels to the lungs, it can cause breathing problems and sometimes death. Andrea Baccarelli and colleagues at Harvard School of Public Health monitored the air quality in different parts of the Lombardy region of Italy.

Pages