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Prime Time for Cicadas
Secrets of an Ancient Computer
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Human Body
From Stem Cell to Any Cell
Sleeping Soundly for a Longer Life
Kids now getting 'adult' disease
Invertebrates
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Giant Clam
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Asian Elephants
Killer Whales
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The Surprising Meaning and Benefits of Nursery Rhymes
Expert report highlights the importance to parents of reading to children!
Children and Media
Physics
Echoes of a Stretched Egg
Powering Ball Lightning
The Pressure of Scuba Diving
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Fungus Hunt
Tracking the Sun Improves Plant Pollen
Assembling the Tree of Life
Reptiles
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Burst Busters
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Rover Makes Splash on Mars
Technology and Engineering
Supersuits for Superheroes
Bionic Bacteria
Young Scientists Take Flight
The Parts of Speech
Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Adjectives and Adverbs
Pronouns
Transportation
Seen on the Science Fair Scene
Flying the Hyper Skies
Robots on the Road, Again
Weather
Watering the Air
Polar Ice Feels the Heat
A Change in Climate
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Bugs with Gas

You may know of propane as the gas that fires up camp stoves or fuels outdoor grills. Researchers have now found that microbes living under the ocean floor appear to produce propane and another gas called ethane. These microbes chew up ancient organic material, such as leaves and twigs buried in the sand, and they generate the gases as waste products. That's a surprise. Scientists had thought that propane and ethane could be produced only in the same way that petroleum isóby great heat applied to ancient, buried material. A team led by Kai-Uwe Hinrichs of the University of Bremen in Germany went on a research ship equipped with an enormous drill that dug out cylinders of sand or rock thousands of feet long. When the researchers examined these cylinders, they found traces of ethane and propane locked in the sediment. Normally, to generate these gases, Earth's heat cooks organic material in sand for many thousands of years. This can happen only at spots above cracks in Earth's crust, where heat can leak out from inside Earth, and where thick layers of sediment would act like a blanket. But the samples that Hinrichs and his coworkers had looked at contained thin layers of sediment. Some cylinders had also been obtained from places far from any cracks in Earth's crust. So where could the gases be coming from? Scientists already knew that microbes could break down organic material to produce a related, simpler gas called methane. So, undersea microbes were the only thing that made sense. "When you can't come up with any geologic source, then biology is an obvious candidate," Hinrichs says. The finding may someday lead to practical applications. Propane is valuable as a fuel, and ethane is used to make plastics. Pulling propane and ethane out of sediment is too difficult to be practical. But if scientists can better understand how microbes create the gases, they might be able to use the microbes' methods to make ethane and propane directly from organic material.óJ. Rehmeyer

Bugs with Gas
Bugs with Gas








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