The Race To Produce “Meat” From Plant Protein
Five years after the first plant-based “hamburger”r was shown in Belgium, start-ups around the world are racing to produce lab-grown meatthat tastes as good as the traditional kind and costs about as much.
They’re already playing catch-up: “plant-based” meat, made of a mix of non-animal products that mimic the taste and texture of real meat, is already on the market. The biggest name in this area: Impossible Foods, whose faux meat sells in more than 5,000 restaurants and fast food chains in the US and Asia and should be in supermarkets later this year.
Impossible’s research team of more than 100 scientists and engineers uses techniques such as gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to identify the volatile molecules released when meat is cooked.
The key to their particular formula is the oxygen-carrying molecule heme, which contains iron that gives meat its colour and metallic tang. Instead of using meat, Impossible uses genetically modified yeast to make a version of heme that is found in the roots of certain plants.
Impossible has a few competitors, particularly Beyond Meat, which uses pea protein (among other ingredients) to replicate ground beef. Its product is sold in supermarket chains like Tesco in the UK and Whole Foods in the US, alongside real meat and chicken. Both Impossible and Beyond released new, improved versions of their burgers in mid-January.
A Nose Job Without The Surgery
Currently, in order to reshape cartilage such as that within the nose, incisions and subsequent sutures are typically required. Not only is the procedure invasive, but it can also result in scarring. Now, however, scientists have demonstrated a new method of cartilage-reshaping that requires no cutting.
First of all, there already is a procedure in which an infrared laser is used to heat up cartilage, making it malleable enough to be moulded into the desired shape. According to the University of California-Irvine’s Dr. Brian Wong, however, the process is expensive, plus it’s difficult the heat the cartilage sufficiently without killing it.
Seeking a better alternative, his team joined forces with Dr. Michael Hill from Los Angeles-based Occidental College. The researchers ultimately developed a technique that they call “molecular surgery,” which begins with tiny needles being inserted into the cartilage. These are used to pass an electrical current through the tissue. This electrolyzes water present in the cartilage, converting it into oxygen and hydrogen ions – the latter are also known as protons.
The positive electrical charge of the protons proceeds to cancel the negative charge of proteins contained within the cartilage’s rigid collagen fibres. This reduces those fibres’ charge density, temporarily causing them to become soft and malleable – they’re still linked to one another, however, by biopolymers.
MIT and NASA Develop Auto-morphing “Metamaterial” Wing
A team of researchers led by NASA and MIT have come up with a radical new wing designthat is not only much lighter than conventional wings, but also has the potential to automatically reconfigure itself to meet the flight conditions of the moment. Built out of tiny, identical polymer tiles connected by struts, the new mechanical “metamaterial” promises faster, cheaper aircraft production and maintenance.
Airplane wings are complicated structures that are expensive to design, build, and maintain. In order to do their job, they require an intricate system of control surfaces, motors, cables, and hydraulics to function so that a rigid wing can use rigid control surfaces that slide and tilt to control the flow of air passing over them.
The problem is that such rigid surfaces are nowhere near as efficient as they could be. Worse, every wing is a compromise – not with an ideal wing, but between an entire series of ideal wing shapes that would be needed to provide the best performance while taking off, landing, and every other flight condition in between.
Private Space Industry To Become Worth $1 Trillion
Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, Relativity Space, Slingshot Aeropsace, SpaceX and Virgin Orbit have raised billions of dollars to create new vehicles to launch payloads into space, but as the private space industry develops in the U.S. investors are beginning to back enabling technologies to boost the next wave of innovation.
Whether it’s satellite manufacturers, new propulsion systems for satellites, antennae for data transmission or actually building out the networks themselves, the new space race will be building the next generation of services that the increasing access to space provides.
Last year, investors put at least $2.3 billion into companies angling for their own corner of outer space.
By 2040, Morgan Stanley estimates that the space economy to be worth more than $1 trillion in 2040 — as well as for SpaceX to double, or even quintuple, its valuation — “are significantly tied to the developments related to satellite broadband.”
For the moment, the next wave is still focused on terrestrial applications.
Already, landmark deals are being signed to provide new space-based internet networking services like the agreement between the start-up company Astranis and Pacific Dataport toprovide high-speed, lower-cost broadband services to Alaska.
Promising “Breakthrough” In Colorectal Cancer Treatment
Positive early results from the first phase of human testing for a unique colorectal cancer vaccine are proving promising. A newly published study outlining the Phase I trial results suggests the vaccine is safe, and stimulates immune activation, paving the way for larger human trials.
Colorectal cancer is the second biggest cancer killer globally. It is not only tricky to diagnose early, but many current treatments are only marginally effective. Almost half of patients receiving surgical resections still don’t survive due to the cancer’s propensity for recurrence.
The new vaccine treatment is designed to stimulate a patient’s immune system to attack and destroy the cancer. Immunotherapy treatments traditionally work by training the immune system to recognise a foreign agent so it is primed to identify and kill those substances when they naturally appear in the body. Tumour cells are notoriously tricky to target in this regard as they often closely resemble normal healthy cells.
Thermal Battery Suggests Yet Another Storage Breakthrough
South Australia has recently put the world’s biggest lithium battery into operation – but perhaps it should’ve waited. A local start-up says it’s built the world’s first working thermal battery, a device with a lifetime of at least 20 years that can store six times more energy than lithium-ion batteries per volume, for 60-80 percent of the price.
Climate Change Technologies, also known as CCT Energy Storage, has launched its TED (Thermal Energy Device) with a set of remarkable claims.
TED is a modular energy storage unit that accepts any kind of electricity – solar, wind, fossil fuel-generated or straight off the grid – and uses it to heat up and melt silicon in a heavily insulated chamber. Whenever that energy is required, it’s pulled out with a heat engine. A standard TED box holds 1.2 megawatt-hours of energy, with all input and output electronics on board, and fits easily into a 20-ft (6-m) container.
Here are some of CCT’s banner claims about the TED: For a given size volume, it can store more than 12 times more energy than a lead-acid battery, and several times more than lithium-ion solutions.
Installations can scale from 5-kilowatt applications out to a virtually unlimited size. Hundreds of megawatts of instantly accessible, easily controllable power should be no problem – all you need to do is add more units, plug-and-play style. In the case of an outage, each TED device can remain active for about 48 hours.
Can Gut Bacteria Trigger Depression?
Perhaps one of the most compelling, and little understood, areas of gut microbiome science is the strange relationship between gut bacteria and mental health.
Researchers are rapidly uncovering new insights into the gut-brain connection, discovering potential microbiome influences on everything from PTSD to brain inflammation. However, a new study into the correlation between gut bacteria and depression has revealed an intriguing association between low levels of specific bacteria and increased rates of depression.
The relationship between gut microbial metabolism and mental health is a controversial topic in microbiome research,” says Jeroen Raes from the VIB Center for Microbiology and the University of Leuven who is one of the authors on the new study. “The notion that microbial metabolites can interact with our brain – and thus behaviour and feelings – is intriguing, but gut microbiome-brain communication has mostly been explored in animal models, with human research lagging behind.”
Utilising data from the large and ongoing Flemish Gut Flora Project, the researchers assessed the association between fecal microbiome data and diagnosed clinical depression. The results found two specific bacteria significantly stood out as being consistently seen in low levels among subjects suffering from depression.
Coprococcus and Dialister, two different bacterial families, were identified as major quality of life markers. As well as being found in depleted levels in depressed subjects, increased levels of the bacteria were strongly associated with higher quality of life indicators. Interestingly, a bacterial enterotype known as Bacteroides2 was found to be more prevalent in depressed subjects. This particular family of bacteria has previously been associated with the inflammatory bowel condition Crohn’s disease.
Google Opens, Then Abruptly Shuts, Its AI Ethics Oversight Board
The Advanced Technology External Advisory Council was set up to “guide responsible development of AI” projects within Google. It had eight members, including technologists, philosophers, and economists, and was meant to hold four meetings a year, starting this month.
One of those members, Alessandro Acquisti, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, had already announced that he would not be taking up the role. Google says it’s cancelling the whole paneland starting again from scratch.
Chinese Women Prefer “Virtual Boyfriends”
Imagine that four handsome, successful men are romantically pursuing you. There’s Li Zeyan, a strong but cold CEO; Zhou Qiluo, a sunny boy band-type; Xu Mo, a brilliant scientist; and Bai Qi, a special forces police officer who’s always at your beck and call. Oh, and he can also fly.
Such is life in Love and Producer, a mobile game that has become a surprise hit in China, attracting millions of women looking for love. “The men in the game are more attractive than real boyfriends,” says one fan, who asked not to be named. “They’re very attentive. They’re generally more into feelings and emotions.”
Love and Producer is a mobile game that follows the story of a young TV producer who is dedicated to reviving her late father’s TV show that explored mysterious incidents and anomalies revolving around Evols (humans with special powers, think X-Menbut different). In the game you explore the main plot and produce shows, making tough decisions by selecting the right crew and guest stars, according to their strengths, for each episode.
Two months after it launched in December 2017, Love and Producer had been downloaded more than ten million times. Developer Pape Games, based in Suzhou, a city near Shanghai, used voice actors to create phone and video calls and social media updates. It’s just like real life. Except it isn’t, of course.
Players can even purchase special voice episodes – a strange mix of ASMR and video game in which your virtual sweetheart lulls you to sleep with a late-night telephone call, complete with built-in silences so players can reply to their amour’s questions.
Walmart Rolls Out More Robots
Walmart is expanding its use of robotsin stores to help monitor inventory, clean floors and unload trucks, part of the retail giant’s efforts to control labour costs as it spends more to raise wages and offer new services like online grocery delivery
The USA’s largest private employer said at least 300 stores this year will add machines that scan shelves for out-of-stock products. Autonomous floor scrubbers will be deployed in 1,500 stores to help speed up cleaning, after a test in hundreds of stores last year. And the number of conveyor belts that automatically scan and sort products as they come off trucks will more than double, to 1,200.
The company said the addition of a single machine can cut a few hours a day of work previously done by a human, or allow Walmart to allocate fewer people to complete a task, a large saving when spread around 4,600 U.S. stores. Executives said they are focused on giving workers more time to do other tasks, and on hiring in growing areas like e-commerce.
Instead, Walmart is spending to battle Amazon.com Inc. and serve more shoppers buying online. Walmart has hired around 40,000 store workers to pick groceries from shelves to fulfil online orders. The company is also raising wages, adding worker training, and buying e-commerce start-ups.