A scientist who mapped his genome and the genetic diversity of the oceans said on Thursday that he is creating a life form that feeds on climate-ruining carbon dioxide to produce fuel. Geneticist Craig Venter disclosed his potentially worldchanging "fourth-generation fuel' project at an elite Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Monterey, California. "We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry and becoming a major source of energy,' Venter told an audience that included global warming fighter Al Gore and Google co-founder Larry Page. "We think we will have fourth-generation fuels in about 18 months, with CO2 as the fuel stock.' Simple organisms can be genetically re-engineered to produce vaccines or octane-based fuels as waste, according to Venter. Biofuel alternatives to oil are third-generation. The next step is life forms that feed on CO2 and give off fuel such as methane gas as waste, according to Venter. "We have 20 million genes which I call the design components of the future,' Venter said. "We are limited here only by our imagination.' His team is using synthetic chromosomes to modify organisms that already exist, not making new life, he said. Organisms already exist that produce octane, but not in amounts needed to be a fuel supply. "If they could produce things on the scale we need, this would be a methane planet,' Venter said. "The scale is what is critical; which is why we need to genetically design them.' The genetics of octane-producing organisms can be tinkered with to increase the amount of CO2 they eat and octane they excrete, according to Venter. The limiting part of the equation isn't designing an organism, it's the difficulty of extracting high concentrations of CO2 from the air to feed the organisms, the scientist said in answer to a question from Page. Scientists put "suicide genes' into their living creations so that if they escape the lab, they can be triggered to kill themselves. Venter said he is also working on organisms that make vaccines for the flu and other illnesses. "We will see an exponential change in the pace of the sophistication of organisms and what they can do,' Venter said. "We are a ways away from designing people. Our goal is just to make sure they survive long enough to do that.' But, if two scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States are correct, people will still be on gasoline even 50 years from now, churning out climate changing pollutants in the process, and yet not be accelerating an ecological disaster. With crude at nearly $100 a barrel

Since the beginning of the space age, astronomers have dreamed of putting telescopes and other instruments on the far side of the moon. Not only would that avoid all the distortions and disturbances caused by Earth's turbulent atmosphere, but equally important, the moon's mass would block the noisy torrent of radio signals emanating from Earth. Only in the moon's radio "shadow' could the farseeing radio telescopes envisioned for the future pick up the extremely faint signals left over from the early universe, signals that would otherwise be drowned out by the broadcast barrage from Earth. But placing astronomy equipment on the always far side of the moon was well beyond the capabilities of the Apollo programme, and no robotic lunar mission could do it either, which is why the telescopes were never developed. With NASA planning to send astronauts back to the moon sometime after 2019, those dreams of a radio telescope looking out through the galaxies from the protected side of the moon have been revived. The agency recently awarded two planning grants for research on the necessary technologies and on how to put them in place. The $500,000 grants to a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and to the Naval Research Laboratory will be used to flesh out ideas for designing folded-up radio antennas that would pop open after being dropped on the lunar surface, for transmitting the flood of data that the antennas could theoretically collect, and for taking advantage of the planned presence of astronauts on the moon.

A Vast Lake Trapped Under Ice Sheet Drained Into The Sea, Bringing Down Temperatures Paris: Canadian geologists say they can shed light on how a vast lake, trapped under the ice sheet that once smothered much of North America, drained into the sea, an event that cooled Earth's climate for hundreds of years. During the last ice age, the Laurentide Ice Sheet once covered most of Canada and parts of the northern United States with a frozen crust that in some places was three kilometres thick. As the temperature gradually rose some 10,000 years ago, the ice receded, gouging out the hollows that would be called the Great Lakes. Beneath the ice's thinning surface, an extraordinary mass of water built up

Fuel from carbon dioxide could solve the power and pollution problem Imagine thinking out of the box, on steroids. Like, why not have a system where one could effortlessly extract all the emitted carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

The Arctic reflects what ails a world gripped by global warming. As the ice melts and nations vie for rich mineral resources once hidden under the snow, the writing on the wall is often ignored, says Fatima Chowdhury Thousands of miles away in the Arctic region, fate stands delicately balanced at the edge of time. Located at the North Pole, the region includes the Arctic Ocean surrounded by the five Arctic states

Astronomers claim to have discovered a rich diversity of at least 67 gravitational lenses around a number of massive elliptical and lenticular-shaped galaxies in the distant Universe, using the Hubble Space Telescope. The strong lensing produced by massive galaxies is much more common than the usual giant "arc' gravitationally lensed galaxies that Hubble has previously observed; but they are generally more difficult to find as they extend over a smaller area and have a wide variety of shapes, the NASA said. Gravitational lensing occurs when light travelling towards earth from a distant galaxy is magnified and distorted as it encounters a massive object. These gravitational lenses often allow astronomers to peer much further back into the early universe than they would normally be able to. The massive objects that create the lenses are usually huge clusters of massive galaxies. "We typically see the gravitational lens create a series of bright arcs or spots around a galaxy cluster. What we are observing here is a similar effect but on much smaller scale

WASHINGTON, FEB 21: A navy missile soaring 210 kilometres above the Pacific smashed a dying and potentially deadly US spy satellite and probably destroyed a tank carrying 450 kilograms of toxic fuel, officials said. Officials had expressed cautious optimism that the missile would hit the satellite, which was the size of a school bus. But they were less certain of hitting the smaller, more problematic fuel tank, whose contents posed what Bush administration officials deemed a potential health hazard to humans if it landed intact. In a statement late on Wednesday announcing that the Navy missile struck the satellite, the Pentagon said, "Confirmation that the fuel tank has been fragmented should be available within 24 hours.' It made no mention of early indications, but a defence official close to the situation said later that officials monitoring the collision saw what appeared to be an explosion, indicating that the fuel tank was hit. The USS Lake Erie, armed with an SM-3 missile designed to knock down incoming missiles

Scientists have developed the mother of all laser beams

Washington: American warships are moving into position to try to shoot down an out-of-control spy satellite as early as Wednesday before it tumbles into the Earth's atmosphere, Pentagon officials said here on Tuesday. Armed with two specially modified interceptor missiles, the

In March last year, two million Sydney residents switched off lights and appliances for an hour. The idea was to send a message about arguably the greatest threat facing the planet: global warming. The move clearly captured the imagination of people across the world, because this year 23 other cities