It is lunchtime in the future. You are hungry and eating a burger. But, the beef inside did not come from a cow. It came from a lab. Scientists are figuring out how to grow hamburger patties in a petri dish.

Now, you might be wondering why would you want to grow two all-beef patties without the cow? It ends up that cows are very inefficient at producing protein. Also, there will be many more mouths to feed in the future. In fact, by 2050, there will be nearly 9 billion people on the planet. That’s a lot of hungry people. Cows can’t cut it.

Additionally, cows produce a lot (like,  10 to 20%) of all the green house gases in the world, because they belch methane. Methane is a powerful gas that traps the heat that the earth is trying to eliminate. So, finding another source of meat is good for the planet.

Making a lab-grown beef patty is a very simple process.  There are special cells in your body called stem cells that are used to repair muscles should they become injured. What scientists do is get these stem cells and take them outside of the body and give them an environment to grow and create muscle.  And, nine weeks later, you have a hamburger.

So what does the burger taste like? Well, it is a bit dry. There isn’t any fat to hold in the juices. So, researchers are working on making fat too.

Interestingly, the cost of this first burger wasn’t cheap. It cost $25,000 to create it. But, now that these scientists know what it takes to make one burger, they can figure out how to scale up their process.

It will take some time before you see a beaker-grown beef patty. There are still many tests that have to be done and governmental guidelines that need to be met.

But, eventually a beef patty may be made at a 3D printer near you.

 

Dogs bark. Cats meow. Ducks quack. These noises might not seem like much to us, but animals are communicating.

We’ve been intrigued with communicating with animals since the classic movie Dr. Dolittle from the 1960s and the revamped version of this movie in the 1990s with Eddie Murphy. But, scientists have been studying animal language for much, much longer and have found that animals have a full vocabulary with verbs, nouns, and adjectives. Animals can alert other animals of predators by stating what the predator is, what it looks like, and how fast the predator is running.

But the fascinating part about animal language is time. Animals with longer lives tend to speak at longer and more drawn-out paces than animals with shorter lives and faster speech. For instance, a prairie dog speaks in chirps, but if you slow down those chirps, they sound like human speech. Prairie dogs live for a three to five years.  On the other end, whales live for decades and speak for whole minutes. If you speed up their speech several times, it sounds like a human speaking.  There seems to be some correlation between the length of life and how long an animal speaks.

All this is to say it that the chirps or barks you hear are full of compressed information. And, to quote Bonnie Raitt, that is “Something to Talk About.”

Find out more about animal language here:

Chasing Dr. Dolittle by Con Slobodchikoff

 

Imagine you are a seed. You are buried in the ground and it is dark.

You are starting to sprout and grow. But which way should you go? Which way is up?

Well, it ends up there are special cells in plants that allow it to sense the direction of gravity. These cells are sort of like a jar full of water with small rocks inside. If you throw in the rocks and seal the jar, the rocks will fall to the bottom. If you tilt the jar, the rocks will fall to the new bottom. Something similar is going on inside these cells. There are small rocks that fall to the bottom of the cell and tell the cell, this is where gravity is pulling. So, the roots know to go in that direction; and the shoots of the plant know to go in the opposite direction.

Scientists would call this ability of plants to sense gravity, gravitropism.

If you want, you can try a little experiment. Get a small plant, and put it on its side. In a few days, the plant will tilt upwards.

Now, this ability for plants to sense the direction of gravity is fine on earth were gravity is present, but what about on the space station, where there is little gravity? If we want to grow plants in space, in the right direction, we need to give plants other clues to know which way to grow. Fortunately, plants also grow in the direction of light too. And, recently astronauts have grown a flower in space.

Plants are budding with science and with special cells they know what’s up.

 

Deep in your printer are millions of explosions that you don’t even know about. Now, we usually don’t think of our printers as anything special, but there is lots of science taking place to make your documents come to life.  Inside of your printer, bubbles push ink through small microscopic holes to make dots on a page that will become letters and numbers and symbols.

But these are no ordinary bubbles. You could put over one and a half million of these bubbles in a square inch (a little over a postage stamp).  These bubbles are created by heating the ink with very tiny electrical resistors, like those in your toaster, but the ink is heated so quickly that it doesn’t actually boil. The ink is heated to over 650 Fahrenheit  (350C). At this temperature, the ink doesn’t boil, it explodes in what’s called a super heated vapour explosion .

Now, the concept of using bubbles to print have been around since the 1950s, and full disclosure, I worked at HP and worked on ink jet.

So how does printing happen? We send a pattern of electrical pulses that activate the resisters in order to produce a pattern of dots on the paper. One of those pulses, which last for about a millionth of a second, causes a bubble to form. The bubble pushes the drop out the nozzle and the drop lands on paper in a pattern that reproduces characters and graphic images. And, voila, you have the makings of an image.

To make an image, there are nozzles for black, cyan,  magenta, and yellow ink. When combined in the right proportion, all the colors of the rainbow are possible and the quality is on par with a photograph.

And ink jet is everywhere.  The next time you see a bus driving down the street with a beautiful color graphic on the side it is most likely that it was printed on ink jet.   Ink jet is also used for banners, CDs, and even t-shirts.

So bubbles print and their work is everywhere. They give life more pop.