How Scientists Will Find Your Next Antibiotic in this Pile of Dirt

Nearly a century after scientists dug up penicillin, researchers are turning once more to the soil for new pharmaceuticals. But this time, they have tiny, powerful technologies on their side. Here's how scientists are unlocking the secrets of soil microbes and discovering the next generation of medicine. » 3/13/15 11:00am 3/13/15 11:00am

This Water Bottle Filters All Germs As You Drink

Worry about dirty water when you're traveling, biking or hiking and don't want to fuss with a complicated, heavy filter or pollute the taste of your drinking water with chemical treatments? This new Naked Filter from Liquidity promises to remove "99.9999%" of bacteria and protozoa as you sip. » 3/12/15 1:48pm 3/12/15 1:48pm

Not Even Science Could Explain the Bacteria In My Apartment

Three years ago, I gently brushed fiber-tipped swabs against the surfaces of my tiny New York apartment. Microbes live everywhere, and I was gathering samples for genetic analysis — I wanted to identify my microscopic housemates. » 3/05/15 1:35pm 3/05/15 1:35pm

All the Reasons Why You Need to Purify Drinking Water

You know you need to filter, treat or boil water you find in the wilderness. But why? Well, there's a number of answers, starting with words like E. Coli, Hepatitis A, Giardia and Cryptosporidiosis.
» 2/10/15 5:00pm 2/10/15 5:00pm

Magnetic Nanobeads Can Snatch Bacteria and Virus Out of Blood

Sepsis is an nasty and surprisingly common way to die. The illness is triggered by blood infections but, ultimately, it's your own immune reaction—not the bacteria or virus—that poisons you to death. Filtering those pathogens out of blood right away, though, could be a promising treatment. Enter a new device made of m… » 9/16/14 3:19pm 9/16/14 3:19pm

Switzerland Puts Secret Bacteria in Cheese to Catch Knockoffs

In parts of Europe, where cheese is taken seriously as a source of national pride, entire labs are devoted to spotting knockoff Emmental and Gruyere. Switzerland has what may be the most impressive strategy yet: secret cocktails of bacteria, sent only to licensed cheesemakers, that work as living biological tracers. » 8/28/14 3:46pm 8/28/14 3:46pm

A Gut Microbe Could Be the Key to Stopping Peanut Allergies

In the past few decades, food allergies have been increasingly and mysteriously on the rise. A possible explanation lies with our gut bacteria, which have been reshaped by our soap- and antibiotics-laden lifestyles. A new study in mice adds intriguing evidence: one particular type of bacteria prevents sensitivity to… » 8/25/14 6:00pm 8/25/14 6:00pm

We Only Just Discovered This Super Common Virus That's Likely Inside You

Today, scientists report the discovery of an incredibly common new virus that lives inside human gut bacteria. It's called crAssphage (more on the name later!), and it's about six times more abundant than all other known bacterial viruses put together. How did we miss it for so long? » 7/24/14 5:20pm 7/24/14 5:20pm

Electricity-Eating Bacteria Are Real and More Common Than We Thought

In the extreme world of bacteria, stunts such as living in hot springs or without oxygen are, like, totally unimpressive. But then there are bacteria that live off electricity, feeding directly on naked electrons. Even more surprisingly, scientists are finding that these bacteria are not even that rare. » 7/17/14 7:47pm 7/17/14 7:47pm

Why the First Antibiotic-Resistant Superbug Found in Food Is a Big Deal

In very bad news, a superbug resistant to last-resort antibiotics was found in imported squid, according to a report this week. This is a scary development in antibiotic resistance—even if you don't eat squid. Here is why one small finding has frightening implications. » 6/12/14 5:40pm 6/12/14 5:40pm

This Flickering Screen Is Powered by Plant-Eating Bacteria

In the future, the lines between technology and nature will continue to blur, as we create innovative approaches to renewable energy. It's actually already happening, and there's no better example than the Eventual, a bio art project by two designers from the University of Pennsylvania. » 5/17/14 1:00pm 5/17/14 1:00pm

The SpaceX Launch Is Sending Dinosaur Microbes to the Space Station

The SpaceX Dragon capsule that just left Earth for the International Space Station is carrying many an important item: a new laser communication system, coffee (which they just ran out of!), a planter for fresh produce, and billions and billions of microbes swabbed from dinosaur bones, sneakers, and spacecraft clean… » 4/18/14 4:45pm 4/18/14 4:45pm

4 Ways Tiny Microbes Changed Life on Earth Forever

This is the microbes' world—we just live in it. Throughout the history of Earth, microbes have radically reshaped life on the planet, from creating the very air we breath to wiping out almost all life on Earth. Don't underestimate the power of tiny, tiny microbes populating the Earth trillions of times over. » 4/07/14 12:00pm 4/07/14 12:00pm

Did A "Field of Human Excrement" By The White House Kill A President?

If you remember President William Henry Harrison from U.S. history class at all, then you probably remember him as the poor fellow who died from pneumonia a month after delivering his inaugural address in freezing rain. Except was it really pneumonia after all? A New York Times article suggests a different theory, and… » 4/02/14 5:40pm 4/02/14 5:40pm

A week of calamity in landscapes reads! Did microbes cause the largest mass extinction in earth's history? Why is California sinking? What did we learn from the biggest earthquake in America fifty years ago? And, closer to home, how dangerous should a playground be? » 4/01/14 9:40am 4/01/14 9:40am

Concrete-Dissolving Bacteria Are Destroying Our Nation's Sewers

Underground in places nobody likes to look, bacteria are doing terrible things to our sewage pipes. The concrete pipes that carry our waste are literally dissolving away, forcing engineers into a messy, expensive battle against tiny microbes. » 3/28/14 1:00pm 3/28/14 1:00pm

This Pretty Gel Is a Smart Tag That Changes Color When Food Spoils

Thanks to what looks like a little square of jello, you could tell your milk has gone bad without even opening the (gross-smelling) container. The gel is actually a nanorod-embedded smart tag that changes from red to green, mimicking the growth of bacteria in milk without touching it. » 3/19/14 5:40pm 3/19/14 5:40pm

Why Do Bacteria Thrive in Space?

For reasons that still aren't well understood, bacteria proliferate in microgravity. Creating a potential recipe for disaster for humans stationed in space for long periods, bacteria's love of low-g also raises an intriguing question: Why are they so comfortable there? » 3/05/14 8:20am 3/05/14 8:20am

Whoa, Watch Bacteria Instantly Turn Water Into Ice

Believe it or not, making ice is more complicated than just making water really cold. One thing that helps is bacteria. Yes, bacteria! In this captivatingly magic video, it takes just a second for Pseudomonas syringae to turn a whole jar of water into ice. » 2/24/14 5:20pm 2/24/14 5:20pm

An Unintended Effect of Energy-Efficient Buildings: Toxic Mold

Energy-efficient buildings can be wonderful at keeping out drafts and keeping down heating bills. But the same air-tightness, unfortunately, is also perfect for trapping humid air where toxic mold can go to party. » 2/16/14 1:00pm 2/16/14 1:00pm