Saturday, September 26, 2009

Some chatter about commuter rail

This week, the MBTA negotiated a deal with freight carrier CSX that should make it easier for them to expand and improve commuter rail service. I don't know anything about this, but that's what all the articles seemed to imply. The deal does not impact the Franklin line that would be the one that could come to Hopedale or Milford, but it is a sign that the MBTA is willing to expand.

The Milford daily news debriefed our local state Representative, John Fernandes, who serves on a key transportation committee. Towards the end of the article, the subject of expansion to Milford/Hopedale comes up and it sounds like there have been some serious, if informal, discussions. It's probably not anything more than the rumor mills already had heard, but it's nice to see it getting some press.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Super bugs

No, I'm not going to write about drug resistant TB and its friends. I'm talking about the microbes Craig Venter is going to make. He is talking about engineering microorganisms that can make biofuels from sunlight, air, and water.

I don't know too much about his plans, but I've written in the past that algal biofuels seem to be the only biofuel tech that makes sense on a large scale. Most other approaches compete with food production. I've heard that he is starting with marine algae so as to avoid conflict with fresh water needs.

I also know that Venter is not someone to bet against in this arena. As with sequencing the human genome, the science isn't in doubt here. The question is whether it will work at a useful scale. I hope he can do it and suspect he will. One of his moves (and this is no secret formula) is to use money to lure really smart and creative folks to his cause. He just hired a friend of mine away from our lab.