Microbe Brew

We round up this week’s most intriguing items from around the Web.

Microbe Brew
Wetlands are nature’s sponges, soaking up people’s toxic uh-ohs before they reach our drinking water. Now, reports Discover, researchers may have found a secret ingredient that improves their performance: beer. A great source of carbohydrates, the beer apparently fueled the bacteria that absorb heavy metals. This enabled the scientists to hit up a local distributor for its expired booze with the irresistible pitch: “If you’re going to dump the beer out anyway, might as well dump it down a drain where it can bioremediate.”

Parasite to Behold

Notre Dame scientists have found a way to trick web servers into taking on some distributed-computing drudgery without their owners’ knowledge. In a Nature article, the researchers describe how they shanghaied processing power in North America, Europe and Asia, and warn that unless preventive measures are taken, so-called “parasitic computing” could threaten the Internet but not anytime soon. The scientists report that such piggy-backing took 200 times longer than if they had used a single PC.

Madison Avenue Speedway
Casting a critical eye on the latest attempt to make Web ads work, the New York Times reports that advergames, “born of desperation and ingenuity,” are part product placement, part interactive commercial. Now 3-D driving games promote Dodge while Rug Rat adventures push Burger King-a long way from the days when treeloot.com invited surfers to zap their monkey.

But Look Out Below
New Scientist raises yet another criticism of President Bush’s missile defense plan: even if it works perfectly, shot-down warheads may land, still intact, on America’s friends and neighbors.

Smile, Honey
Here’s the latest in our ongoing effort to round up intriguing stories of dental technology.
The secret to Winnie the Pooh’s winning smile? Researchers say it’s propolis-the sticky compound that holds beehives together. Scientific American reports that a new study (of bees, not the Pooh) shows the compound contains powerful anti-cavity ingredients. Not recommended: disguising oneself as a rain cloud for the purpose of stealing propolis.

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