Tag Archives: Futurology ~ Betelgeuse

Futurology ~ Betelgeuse, gecko space gripper, urine and algae power, vegan mayo meat, cool pavements, probiotic beer, bad bitumen bottles


This orange blob shows the nearby star Betelgeuse, as seen by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimetre Array (ALMA)

Orion’s second biggest star in (sort of) detail — Pretty much everyone has heard of the Orion constellation and has probably seen it (you can even see it from New York, despite the light pollution). It’s hard not to like it. And if you spend some time studying its behaviour and meaning, you’ll only appreciate its intricacies even more.  Orion’s second brightest and biggest star, Betelgeuse, has been photographed by the Atacama Large Millimetre Array in Northern Chile. Not only is it one of the crispest images of a stellar surface yet, but it can tell scientists a lot about the massive star’s future.
~ Or is it just an out-of-focus lemon? 

Gecko-inspired space-junk gripper — Up in space, gripping objects takes on a whole new absurdity. Suction cups are right out, given they don’t work in a vacuum. And extreme temperature fluctuations rule out any sort of sticky adhesive. Then there’s geckos and their clever tiny feet – a new kind of robotic gripper for space emulates them, Stanford University and NASA JPL researchers report.
~ Or, we just train real geckos and put them in cute little space suits. 

Urine-generated power can kill salmonella — Scientists have understood that microbial fuel cells (MFC) can generate electricity from urine and other forms of waste for a while now. But new research shows the process can also kill bacteria and a new approach to sewage could be the result. The researchers imagine a self-sustaining system that would be of huge benefit to the developing world.
~ Your’e in with urine, because you can get hydrogen easily from it, you see. 

And then there’s the fattened algae — Because fat is essentially oil, fatty algae could be the world’s most successful fuel crop. Ajjawi and his colleagues spent nearly a decade tweaking an algae genome so it produces more than twice as much fat than wild versions of the same species, and they recently described their efforts in an article.
~ But will it smell like fish? 

Vegan mayonnaise company to grow ‘meat’ — The maker of vegan mayonnaise has been working on getting lab-made meat onto dinner tables everywhere. Hampton Creek, which built its name on plant-based condiments and vegan-friendly cookie doughs, has revealed that, for the last year, it has been secretly developing the technology necessary for producing lab-made meat and seafood, or as the industry likes to call it, ‘clean meat.’
~ I prefer to think of it as protein – as a vegetarian for nearly 30 years, I don’t need ‘pretend’ meat.

Cool pavements reflect well for Los Angeles — During the recent heatwave various officials swooped down on streets coated with an experimental light-gray sealer that makes old asphalt into “cool street”. And it works, with average temperature differences between coated streets and adjacent old asphalt around 10F (about 12°C). At a large parking lot, the temperature reduction was over 20F. If the material holds up and continues to meet other criteria, LA plans to use it on more pavement rehab projects, which could eventually make a difference in the heat island effect. The CoolSeal coating costs US$25-40K/mile, and lasts 5-7 years.
~ Not exactly a long-term or cost effective solution, then. 

New probiotic beer boosts immunity — A new patent has been filed for an innovative brewing technique that incorporates a live strain of good bacteria into the brewing process. Researchers at NUS (National University of Singapore) have created a probiotic sour beer that may boost immunity and improve gut health.
~ Ah yeah, we’re all dying to drink boozy yogurt, right? 

Disposable bottles may have curtailed ancient American populations — Pitch black water bottles were made by indigenous tribes who coated large, woven bulbs with the tar-like substance bitumen. Scientists have known about these bottles for years, but what they hadn’t considered was whether these plastic bottles contributed to the declining health in some old societies, like the Native American tribes that once lived off the coast of California. Skeletons dating back thousands of years evidence a mysterious physical decline. A new study, published today in the journal Environmental Health, measured the toxicity of making plastic from oily bitumen, and of storing liquid in the bottles.
~ Gosh, and it looks and sounds so delicious …