French teenagers are learning how to work with bacteria in science labs. Sound like a harmless–and even beneficial–thing, right? But because their experiments involve the genetic modification of Escherichia coli (E. coli) to build resistance to the antibiotic ampicillin, some French organizations are raising the alarm.
One such group includes the Committee for Research & Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN), which lobbies for tighter genetic engineering laws. CRIIGEN President Gilles-Eric Séralini said that he will implore France’s education ministry to ban the creation of trangenic E. coli by 15- and 16-year-old students.
He warns against trivialization of a sensitive subject, contamination risks and possible violation of European directives on the manipulation of genetically modified organisms in confined spaces. “I am also concerned that practical classes erode the time spent imparting knowledge of biology,” he adds.
Dried blood on a handkerchief, a $700,000 gourd and one dead king. A forensic murder mystery?
Nope, just another genetics paper. I mean, it is gourd season, what did you expect?
The dead king in question is Louis XVI (the last of the French kings), who was ceremoniously beheaded on January 21st, 1793. After the beheading, attendees rushed the stage and dipped their handkerchiefs in the royal blood.
Over two hundred years later, some of that blood may have been found–dried to the inside of a decorative gunpowder gourd. The story goes that one of the attendees rushed home and stuffed the bloody handkerchief into the gourd for safekeeping.
In a study published in the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics, researchers analyzed some of the dried blood scraped from the inside of the gourd to find out if it really could be the king’s blood. They checked the Y chromosome to see if the blood-donor was male, and checked for the presence of a blue-eye gene, HERC2. The blood was indeed from the correct time period and belonged to a blue-eyed male–so far, the evidence fits the blue-eyed king. More genetic information about the family will be needed to confirm the identity, the study’s lead author told Wired’s Dave Mosher:
Sure, Google can map just about anything. But who knew it could actually influence geography from the ground up?
The French coastal town of Eu is getting no Internet love, and its mayor is about to do something about it. Marie-Françoise Gaouyer believes that the decline in tourism—down by as much as a third—is the result of the town’s poor standing in “Eu” Google searches. So, she’s advocating to change the name of the town on the belief that additional syllables will increase its Internet visibility. Her decision to act was triggered when even the French national railway’s computer system did not recognize Eu’s existence.
Instead of tourist accommodations, Google currently yields sites related to the European Union or, for French searches, to the past participle of the verb “avoir.” Gaouyer thinks that to increase awareness of Eu among potential tourists, she can either pay search engines like Google to place the town at the top of “Eu” searches, or simply change the town’s name.
Ever since Henry Ford’s “sky flivver” killed a pilot in 1928, engineers have devoted time and money to building the ultimate flying car. On Wednesday, British adventurer Neil Laughton was hoping to fly the “world’s first bio-fuelled flying car” over the English Channel, and embark on a 42-day trip to from London to Timbuktu in Mali. The flying car is powered by a snowmobile engine, and fueled with a mix of petrol and bioethanol.
Unfortunately for Laughton, he failed to submit the proper paperwork to fly across the English Channel, so his trip began a bit less dramatically: He took the ferry from the U.K. on Wednesday morning, and is now preparing to take off in France.
DISCOVER caught up with Laughton, who says he will take flight on Saturday. He would not tell us the location of his runway, however, because he doesn’t want the French authorities to stop the voyage.
So why use biofuel? “We wanted to make a statement to the world that even a James Bond flying car can save the environment,” says Laughton.
If/when he does start his journey, he’ll need good weather to complete the 3,600 mile trip through the Pyrenees, the Straits of Gibraltar, and the Sahara Desert. The Parajet SkyCar will travel by both land and air, at speeds of up to 110 mph on the ground and up to 70 mph in flight. It takes just three minutes for the car to take off from a field or airstrip that is at least 700 feet long. While in the air, the car is controlled by cables and pedals, and can fly as high as 15,000 feet.
Curious about what it looks like? Then click here to see for yourself.
Image: flickr/ bossmustanguk
As truffle season kicks into gear, the French are taking drastic measures to save their highly-prized black truffle, which sells for more than a $1000 a kilo. Apparently, 40 to 50 tons per year (the current output) of the pungent, lumpy fungus with reported aphrodisiac powers isn’t enough to satiate the bon vivants. A hundred years ago, the country was producing 1,000 tons per year of truffle, but global warming and the decline of farming have made the delicacy harder to find.
Truffles are tricky to grow. They require a symbiotic relationship with specific types of trees. The Black Périgord Truffle, known as the “black diamond,” grows exclusively on the roots of oak trees.
Now, as a last ditch effort to save the truffle industry, French scientists are turning to cloning. The Financial Times reports: