Overvalued fossil fuels, bacteria that eat plastics, and the long reach of dipoles

Here are some links to several recent articles by LML External Fellow Mark Buchanan
High fossil-fuel valuations are a political weapon
Bloomberg Opinion, 21 July 2022
Nations have broadly promised to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the near future, primarily carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. As a consequence, financial markets should have begun marking down the value of “stranded” fossil fuel assets — reserves of oil and coal that simply can’t be burned if we’re to have a liveable future. Yet the markets haven’t been listening. The explanation  could be that fossil fuel companies and their investors — especially some powerful groups with extensive lobbying reach — hope to influence the future by keeping their fossil fuel valuations inflated.
The rise of the machine-made molecule
Nature Physics, 12 July, 2022
Until recently, scientists’ exploration of the space of possible molecules has required painstaking experiments, often backed by laborious theoretical calculations. This is now changing due to the revolutionary techniques of machine learning, which are automating not only the discovery of new molecules and materials, but also the task of finding pathways to their synthesis. As a result, chemistry and materials science look set to change almost beyond recognition with huge benefits — although we can anticipate frightening new risks as well.
Plastic munching bacteria offer hope for recycling
Bloomberg Opinion, 2 July 2022
For 70 years, we’ve been trying to recycle plastic, without much success. Meanwhile, plastic has become so enmeshed in our ecosystems that bacteria have evolved to digest it. Oddly, those bacteria might now offer a ray of hope. By studying these plastic-eating bacteria, scientists have discovered some enzymes able to break down plastics far faster than was possible a decade ago.
Scary spring: earlier blooms are a sign of climate change
Bloomberg Opinion, 7 May 2022
We often think of global warming as something made evident only through difficult scientific measurements of atmospheric CO2 levels or average sea-surface temperatures. But signs of warming are all around us in distortions of the historical rhythms of the natural world. These shifts reflect nature under increasing pressure — and hold unpredictable consequences for our well-being and the resilience of global ecosystems in coming decades.
The long reach of dipoles
Nature Physics, 12 April, 2022
Researchers in recent experiments have shown convincing evidence for long-range attractive dipole–dipole forces acting between proteins. Although not yet observed in a realistic biological setting, this confirmation of a 50-year-old conjecture could transform our view of the dynamics and control mechanisms available within living cells.

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