Tag Archives: science

Plastic-Eating Fungus Revisited: Plastic-Fungus Fusion Food

plastic-wasteBack in March 2012, I wrote about some scientists who had discovered a fungus in the jungles of Ecuador, a fungus that can eat plastic.

At the time, I applauded the discovery as an exciting possible solution to the HUGE global problem of plastic waste, but I also expressed some lighthearted caution, imagining a scenario worthy of a sci-fi/action/thriller movie, wherein the fungus mutates, escapes, and feasts on all of the plastic we’re still actually using, plastic we depend on for a great many things.

A scenario I never in a million years would have imagined, however, is one I stumbled upon today, wherein an Austrian design firm, LIVIN, has teamed up with scientists at Utrecht University, to move beyond the fungus eating the plastic, and toward a more holistic-if-unappetizing, food-chain-integrated approach:

Introducing, via GOOD.is’ Jed Oelbaum: The Fungi Mutarium

The device uses fungus in little cups made of agar (a seaweed-based jelly) to digest sterilized plastic, which is metabolized into the fungus, leaving no traces of the original waste. But that’s not even the best part: after the plastic is digested, the agar cups and their resultant contents are completely edible. Yes, that’s right, these fungi actually turn plastic into something you can eat.

Well Jed, maybe that’s something YOU could eat, but I ain’t touching it! Ewwwwww!

(Not entirely incidentally, they call the agar cups “FUs”, which had me wondering whether or not this wasn’t just an elaborate hoax, but my further Googling on the subject seems to point to it being legit.)

Now, something Jed Oelbaum doesn’t explain is why the photos he included seem to suggest that the Fungi Mutarium is apparently meant to be operated wearing nothing but a Soviet-grey nightgown…

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…and the fungus-plastic fusion food is apparently meant to be eaten wearing nothing at all!

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Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?!

But, it gets better, or worse, depending on how you look at it.

The folks at LIVIN have gone so far as to design a line of utensils to be used specifically for the consumption of this product.

And while these guys try to make it sound appetizing…well…ewwww!

Scratch the fungi off the wall of this sensual cutlery and simultaneously mix with the sweet or sour sauce that tops your favorite agar FU.

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The shape of the moon spoon glides along your agar FU to reach even the tiniest fungi fruit bodies on it. It can also be loaded with the delicious agar „meat“.

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Anyway, to see the Fungi Mutarium in action, check out this brief, Stanley Kubrick-esque video presentation:

Baby, It’s Dark Outside: Life Near The 49th Parallel

solsticeWhen most people talk or write about about the shortage of sunshine here in Bellingham, Washington, in late autumn and winter, including myself — When Wednesday became Sun Day in Bellingham — the blame is usually placed on the prodigious rain and clouds we’re kinda known for.

But, this only partly explains the sunshine deficit.

The other reason has to do with the fact that we are very close to the 49th Parallel, latitude 48° 45′ 1″ N, to be exact.

To put it in less scientific terms: Today the sun will set at 4:14pm, the shortest day of the year.

With the sun rising these days at around 8:00am, which happens to be when my work day begins, this means that I wake in the dark and it’s still dark when I leave my office at 5:00pm.

Brutal.

Of course, the glorious flip-side of living at this latitude is that we’re awarded with loads of daylight in the summer, with the sun setting after 9:00pm, giving me 4+ hours of daylight once I’m free from work.

It’s quite the pendulum, but, for me, the summer abundance more than makes up for the winter scarcity.

And, look at it this way: winter solstice becomes a GREAT excuse for a party, a celebration of the returning of the light, cuz starting tomorrow, the daylight will start increasing a little bit everyday, baby!

Woohoo!

Tweet of the Day: @TheOnion

LOL! And I thought I was the only one who finds splitting a bill to be a mentally exhausting challenge.

Be sure to click on the link in the tweet and read the entire “article”.

The team of physicists decided to test Dreyfuss’s Pay For What You Ordered Algorithm, which hypothesized that it was possible to determine what each individual owed by defining variables such as the cost of one’s entrée, the total number of beverages one consumed, one’s percentage of the sum ingestion of the component parts of the Firecracker Salmon Rolls and Buffalo Blasts, and “six bucks toward the birthday boy’s meal.”

Tweet of the Day: #TheLazarusFrog

 

gastricbroodingfrogOk, so this is freaky on several different levels:

  1. That there was ever actually such a thing as a “gastric-brooding frog,” a formerly extinct species that incubated their eggs in their stomachs and gave birth through their mouths. Holy crap!
  2. That scientists have brought these formerly extinct frogs back to life.
  3. That, regardless of how disgusting their method of reproduction is, the tiny baby frog in the mommy frog’s mouth in the photo here is actually kinda cute.

Fascinating to think about the implications of this development, the ethics behind bringing back extinct species, whether or not this is a dangerous slippery slope on the way towards scary CGI action-adventure movies, or worse, the real thing.

Is That An Ice Pack In Your Underwear, Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

snowballsMale infertility is a serious issue, accounting for 40% of all infertility cases.

So, you might think that it’s rather insensitive of me, via the title of this post, to joke about the new fertility-enhancement-through-refrigeration underwear by Procreativity.

But, when you consider that the folks at Procreativity have actually branded their product with the name Snowballs, you can see that they have already beaten me to the punch.

Via Mashable:

Snowballs creator Joshua Shoemake had trouble in the “fertility factory” with his wife. Too many appointments and too much money spent were taking its toll. A friend going through a similar situation was told to put some ice down below, since elevated scrotal temperature can be a major cause of infertility.

After icing for a year, Shoemake’s friend became father to a baby girl. Inspired by the idea, the two believed they could find a way to “hack fertility.”…

The specially designed underwear include SnowWedges for cooling. The wedges mold to the body and use a freezable, non-toxic gel to maintain a comfortable temperature for 30 minutes.

I think that their preemptive use of humor in naming the underwear Snowballs and the video below is brilliant marketing, recognizing that, people being people, jokes would be predictable.

And, while I shiver at the thought of ice in my underwear, having had personal experience with procreation and the incredible joy of being a parent, I can’t help hope that this product can make that experience possible for more men who want it.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Robot Babies: Putting the “creep” in creepy

Originally Published: May 10, 2011


As someone who has contributed to the birth of a baby and parented said baby for the past 13 years, someone who gets the warm fuzzies whenever he’s around other peoples’ babies, I have to say that this really creeps me out:

Via Plastic Pals, via Gizmodo:

Osaka University’s Hosoda Lab is presenting Pneuborn-7II and Pneuborn-13, two musculoskeletal infant robots, at ICRA 2011…Measuring the size of a 7 month old infant, Pneuborn-7II was built to study the relationship between motor development and embodiment. It is 80cm (31″) tall, weighs 5.4kg (11.9 lbs), and has 26 degrees of freedom actuated by 19 pneumatic muscles. Notably, the robot’s spine has three pitch and yaw joints that allow it to rotate, flex, and extend. It is fully autonomous, containing a micro controller, battery, air valves, and an air source (compressed C02 cartridge bottle).

Now, I know that there might be many very practical applications for this technology, for the good of the advancement of science. For all I know, these robots could possibly help us learn more about human babies and could very well lead to medical advances.

And yet, I’ve seen too many movies about robots to know what’s really possible. Either it’s some dystopian future, where infertile human couples buy robot babies, deluded that the robots could be a salve for the lonely emptiness in their lives, or alien invaders appear in the form of robotic babies, at first we think they are benevolent, but then they conquer and enslave us, using lasers that shoot out of their eyes.

Oh, believe me, it could happen!

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Transplanting Life

Originally Published: May 17, 2011


I read an incredibly moving New York Times story this morning that’s been haunting me, and it took me a little while to think it through and figure out why.

For those who don’t have time to read the Times article, by way of summary, in the photo above, the woman in the center and her children are placing their hands on the chest of a man whom they just met.

Why?

Because when the woman’s husband, the father of those children, died a year ago of a brain hemorrhage, his heart was transplanted into that man’s body. The man had been in a hospital suffering from severe heart failure.

Mirtala Garcia laid a hand on Sebastiao Lourenco’s chest, then pressed her ear there for a moment.

“That’s my heart,” she said. “It’s still beating for me.”

I know. Wow.

If that weren’t enough, Mr. Garcia was so young and otherwise healthy that donations from his body greatly improved and/or saved the lives of a total of eight people. Mr. Lourenco received his heart, his corneas went to one or more anonymous people, his pancreas to another anonymous person, the right lobe of his liver went to an adult woman with cancer, the left lobe to a toddler with congenital liver disease, two friends of the family received a kidney each, and one lung went to a man with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Makes me think of the line from It’s A Wonderful Life — “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” The first sentence is right on, but in this case, Mr. Garcia actually filled an awful lot of holes after he wasn’t around anymore.

So, a touching story for sure, but why was it haunting me?

Well, after some thought, as I mentioned, I realized that it had to do with the fact that I was adopted at birth, and I recognized that there are some similarities between adoption and organ donation.

Organ Donation: Amidst death and grief, a gift is given — a new lease on life for the organ recipients.

Adoption: Amidst the social trauma and emotional pain of an unplanned pregnancy, a gift is given — a chance for a baby to have a stable home with two parents who are ready to take on the responsibility of raising a child.

So, just like Mr. Garcia’s organs, I was transplanted.

I’ve never met my birth mother. Though I’ve contemplated a search many times, I’ve always balked because of all the uncertainty that I could ever find her, much less get a chance to meet her. (UPDATED June 2012: I have met her now!)

And yet, reading about how the organ recipients had a chance to meet the wife of the donor, to posthumously thank her husband and to thank her and her children, really stirred up my desire to find my birth mom.

She gave me life, after all. The least I can do is thank her.