Pythons in the Everglades.

The first python was found in the Everglades in 1979, the second in 1995. It’s now estimated there are tens of thousands of the Asian snake with no natural predators in Florida, and the females can have 40 babies a year. The state of Florida hosts python challenges to help cull the population, but humans aren’t very good hunters of pythons either.

The state has let people hunt for pythons before, first people with a special permit, then anybody with a hunting license, but the Python Challenge is something new. It’s open to anybody. Contestants need no experience hunting pythons. They don’t need experience hunting anything. They don’t even need a hunting license. All they need is to pay $25 and do nominal online training. The directive: Catch a snake, kill it, bring it to any of a few dropoff locations from Naples to Miami. The prize for the biggest snake is $1,000. The prize for the most is $1,500. The contest started Jan. 12 and ends Feb. 10.

Pythons in the Everglades.

Super bugs

This article about Craig Venter trying to bio-engineer organisms to do stuff, like clean up pollution or make fuel, is pretty fascinating. It also mentions the word ‘fart’ in the first paragraph and had me looking through the New York Times archives for early mentions of the word (the mentions seem to be all abbreviations or typos until the 1970s).

When I think for too long about the future, I sometimes get depressed, but these bugs could be a solution if they can get worked out in time.

The appeal of biological machinery is manifold. For one thing, because organisms reproduce, they can generate not only their target product but also more factories to do the same. Then too, microbes use novel fuel. Chances are, unless you’ve slipped off the grid, virtually every machine you own, from your iPhone to your toaster oven, depends on burning fossil fuels to work. Even if you have slipped off the grid, manufacturing those devices required massive carbon emissions. This is not necessarily the case for biomachinery. A custom organism could produce the same plastic or metal as an industrial plant while feeding on the compounds in pollution or the energy of the sun.

And here’s another article about super bugs, this time genetically modified mosquitoes bred to pass down genes that makes the offspring self-destruct (they couldn’t say die?) shortly after hatching.

Doyle’s solution? To move ahead with a controversial experiment that has been in the works since before he arrived: importing and releasing millions of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that have been genetically modified in the labs of a British biotech firm called Oxitec. These minute marvels of science are tweaked to pass down a gene that causes their progeny to self-destruct soon after hatching. Only males would be released; theoretically, they would breed with normal females and spawn offspring that keel over and die just before adulthood. The dengue-spreading population would collapse generation by generation.

Super bugs

Homeowners opt to flee instead of fight as loan modifications start to lose luster

Even when HAMP works, it doesn’t:

Recently, Airan-Pace secured a modification for a Miami Beach client that shrank his monthly payment from $3,700 to $1,600. But it was only a reduction in interest rate — allowed by the Home Affordable Modification Program to go as low as 2 percent.
“I called him in and he said, ‘I’m not signing this,’ ” Airan-Pace recalled.
He owed $470,000 on a property worth less than half that.

Homeowners opt to flee instead of fight as loan modifications start to lose luster