Posts tagged science
Posts tagged science
What Does It Take To Make Meat From Stem Cells?
Made with some breadcrumbs, egg, and 20,000 lab-grown cow muscle cells, the world’s first lab-grown burger made its debut last year. It was a proof of concept, evidence that you can make meat in lab. The technology is too difficult and expensive to show up grocery stores any time soon. In the future, however, proponents hope so-called cultured meat will get cheaper. If it does, making beef from stem cells could be an environmentally friendly alternative to, you know, killing animals for food. Raising cattle takes up a lot of arable land and water and creates greenhouse gas emissions. Engineers working on in vitro meat hope their creations will be less harmful on the environment. But will they ever get there?
One new paper, published yesterday in the journal Trends in Biotechnology, aimed to find out. It outlined a new method for growing ground beef in a lab, different from both the technique used in last year’s burger and the 3-D printing that other researchers have proposed. It also crunches some numbers on how much this animal-free beef would cost. Growing meat in lab is resource-intense and expensive, it turns out. One of the biggest costs? Feeding the little beasties.
Like the techniques that made last year’s burger, bioengineer Johannes Tramper’s proposed method starts with a small number of stem cells taken from an animal. After that, however, they go into a big, cylindrical bioreactor, like the ones used in the pharmaceutical industry today. In contrast, the burger was grown from small pieces in dishes in lab and made just a few burgers. So Tramper’s idea brings meat-growing to a bigger scale. So far, so good.
One bioreactor could make 25,600 kilograms (56,400 pounds) of meat a year, Tramper, a professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, calculates. His numbers take into account how big cells are, how fast cells reproduce, and how many batches a bioreactor processes in a year. Assuming a person eats 10 kilos of meat a year—enough for 968 burgers—one bioreactor could feed 2,560 people.
How much would it cost to grow a kilo of this stuff? About 391 euros ($534), Tramper calculates. That’s how much it takes to buy growth medium, the liquidy stuff that cells must grow on. After all, cells are living things. They have to eat, too. In fact, although one of the benefits of lab-grown meat is that it’s not supposed to harm any animals, for now, growth medium requires animal products to make.
Research could lower the cost of growth medium to 8 euros a kilo, or about $5 a pound, Tramper thinks. That’s still not competitive with cow-grown ground beef. Plus, it doesn’t take into account other costs of running a bioreactor, such as hiring three or four well-trained people.
"Competition with normal meat is still a challenge," says Cor van der Weele, a Wageningen University bioethicist who worked with Tramper on the new paper. "We are not especially optimistic about that, in the short term."
In the future, perhaps conventional meat will rise in price, van der Weele says. That will help close the gap between in vitro and in vivo.
Both van der Weele and Tramper think it’s important to study cultured meat to try to bring down its price, but that it’s not a guaranteed solution to the problems of world’s appetite for animals. “It’s not certain that this is going to succeed,” van der Weele says. “We do believe it is necessary to develop alternatives.”
Beyond price, there’s one comparison many have missed, says a Texas-based science communicator who goes by the name Dr. Ricky. Dr. Ricky, who prefers to go by his pseudonym, has written and given public talks about the drawbacks of cultured meat. It’s not clear yet that cultured meat is—or will be—more environmentally friendly than meat cut from cows. Dr. Ricky doesn’t think it will be.
"We’re talking about feeding cells, running the bioreactor, sterilizing the area, the facilities we need to do all that," he says. "This form of biology factory is hilariously inefficient, relative to the input."
Without numbers like those Tramper calculated for the price of lab meat, Popular Science can’t say whether Dr. Ricky is right. While many scientists have calculated the environmental footprint of beef, no one has done that for stem cell burgers.
There may come a time when, late one night deep in the forests of Madagascar, you stumble upon something that is magnificent in its diminution. A creature so glorious in its eensiness that you must steel every nerve to keep the squee at bay. But this encounter was no accident… you spent months of planning, weeks of waiting for permits and equipment, and so many long nights setting traps to ensnare this single, miniscule beast…
And now it is time.
Time to make the decision that will either bring these months to their most glorious fruition, or leave you bitter and empty-handed.
1) Gingerly rub the soft mound of its belly… gently! Ever so gently…
2) Daub its tiny ventrum with rubbing alcohol? Cooling sensations help!
3) Delicately squeeze it? It is, after all, roughly the size of a travel-sized toothpaste tube.
Choose, but choose wisely:
There are only so many ways to convince a mouse lemur (Microcebus spp.) to urinate.
And you NEED that urine.
Special thanks to my one of my favorite partners in gimlet-soaked-Jesus-hosted-glittery-burlesque crime for this post (and the International Primatological Society meetings in Hanoi for bringing us together again). Keep gingerly rubbing those fuzzy bellies, Luca. Keep gingerly rubbing.
Eusociality and Other Sex-Free Lifestyles: Why Members of Sexual Species May Choose To Stay Chaste
Sometimes I hear people making derisive comments towards asexual individuals, something along the lines of how it goes against nature to never have sex, therefore something is horribly wrong with them, etc., etc.
The specific plague I wish upon those people is an infestation of termites. Why termites? I’ll talk about that in a bit.
At one point highly social behavior presented kind of a paradox to the traditional, selfish-gene style evolutionary theory. Charles Darwin famously admitted that it was the social behavior of the bee that was going to bring down his entire construction, because most bees- nay, the vast majority of all individual bees spend all their times leading pious, sexless lives centered around helping one other bee reproduce. At the peak of the season, honeybee colonies can have 60,000 nonbreeding individuals- and just one sexually active queen.
Darwin, of course, did not yet know about genes, but he had an inkling that heredity was a clue- that by helping their relatives, the bees were actually helping themselves. Later scientists have filled in more of the gaps using modern molecular science, and yes, from a genetic standpoint, helping a relative is something like helping a piece of yourself.
But at what point does the value of helping close relatives outweigh the value of actually reproducing? That is a question biologists have been grappling with for quite a while. Because in the game of evolution, what matters isn’t how big your species’ population is- what matters is how many of those individuals share your genes.
If something is ‘old as fuck’ then it’s about 1.2 billion years old because that’s when life evolved sexual reproduction.
However, if something is “old as balls” it’s only about 65 million years old, when placental mammals began to evolve proper testicles.
Fish Out of Water Learn to Walk
Around 400 million years ago, fish left the water and started to evolve into land-loving creatures. But how did the transition happen? A new and unusual experiment could shed some light on the kinds of changes that enabled fins to become limbs. Researchers took a fish species known to be able to walk on its fins from time to time, and raised it on land. Watch the fish promenade in this Nature Video.
Read the paper: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13708
Read the News & Views: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13743
The Gouldian finch are small, brightly colored birds with green backs, yellow bellies, and purple breasts with a light blue uppertail and a cream undertail. Sometimes called lady gouldians, their facial color can vary, but black is the most common. Gouldian finch chicks are equipped with blue phosphorescent beads along their mouths, making it easy for the parents to feed them in the darkness of the nest cavity.
Photo credit: Greg Grall/National Aquarium
99.999% chance that this species has a problem with brood parasitism. Especially with that intricately patterned palate. Also, those bright beads don’t just help parents see the chicks- they actually help the chicks compete with one another to get the most food from mom and dad. The flashier the mouth, the more attention they receive.
Carboni is back!
Solar Eclipse and Milky Way seen from ISS (International Space Station)
LIFE IS TRULY AMAZING
The Functions of Different Pupil Shapes
There are a lot of different pupil shapes among vertebrates (and some invertebrates, too).
The eye itself is kind of a weird misshapen organ, particularly in land animals where it has had to compensate for, you know, the fact that it originally evolved in the water. Light passes differently through water than it does in air, not to mention that now we have to worry about our lenses- which have to be moist to properly function- drying out.
But the focus (ha ha) today is on the pupil, the transparent bit inside the iris that allows light to enter the eye. Without it, our eyes would be functionless. With it, there are a whole bunch of different ways that animals can shape their vision- and their pupil- to their advantage.
Of course, no two scientists seem to agree on exactly what these advantages are.
In which The Huffington Post confirms what vampires have known all along.
Vampire Mom Reveals One Weird Trick to Reverse Aging - Her Elders Are Furious!!!
I would really like someone to explain to me how birds are literally reptiles. Every time I contest that decision the response I get is basically “people with PhDs say this. you obviously don’t know how to science. here is some jargon which I hope you don’t understand.” and there is no effort made to clear up the issue. Birds are endothermic, and they have different respiratory systems and hearts from reptiles, not to mention the myriad of morphological trademarks that are completely unique to them. Really birds are as different from reptiles as mammals are different from reptiles, but for some reason they’re more and more frequently being lumped together. I know the history and the way the phylogenetic tree works and all that, but I don’t understand why the distinction between birds and reptiles is fading in the way we refer to them. Could someone just explain this to me? Because everyone I’ve asked about it gets defensive and elitist and acts like I’m insulting their mothers.
It depends on which definition of “reptile” you’re using. “Scaly cold-blooded animal” is what most people mean by the word in casual conversation, but if you mean any animal more closely related to lizards than to mammals (sauropsids) then yes, birds are reptiles.
Basically, “reptile” is a confusing word.
What countries have most influenced the way you speak? Take this test designed by MIT researchers and find out.
Take this test, guys! It determines what dialect you speak (if your native language is English) and which country you are from (if English isn’t your first language!).
It is an algorithm which maps out the differences in English grammar around the world.
Their top 3 guesses for my English dialect were Canadian, American, & South African, while their top 3 guesses for my native language were English, Russian, & Dutch!
Their choices for dialect:
American Standard (yep!)
Singaporean (at least I won’t sound too American if I go there?)
Canadian (I guess?)
Their choices for first language:
Portuguese (no Spanish?)
I did tell them my own speaking is a mix of Upstate New York and Southern.
1. South African (that was a surprise)
2. American (Standard)
3. US Black Vernacular
they guessed that my native first language is Dutch ….
I was imagining that my first choice for dialect would be American standard and second would be RP, but South African? What the shit? I’ve never even been to the continent of Africa!
1. American (Standard)
1. English (yeh)
Our top three guesses for your English dialect:1. Singaporean
3. American (Standard)
Our top three guesses for your native (first) language:
1. American (Standard)
2. US Black Vernacular / Ebonics
I don’t know about option #2. I’m white so I don’t *intentionally* use Ebonics or AAVE, because that’d be cultural appropriation among other things. But I do hang out with a very racially mixed group of people, both online and in real life, so it’s possible I’ve picked stuff up.
2. American (Standard)
1. New Zealand
2. South African
Dialect - Australian, Scottish, South African. Native language - English, Finnish, German. Got both correct, the other choices are interesting!
Got South African, American (Standard), and Canadian. Not sure where South African came from…
Got native language right (English), but its secondary guess was Russian, which is kind of interesting since Mom was Lithuanian. (Third guess was Dutch.)
Fish from Acidic Waters Less Able to Smell
Fish living on coral reefs where carbon dioxide seeps from the ocean floor are less able to detect predator odor than fish from normal coral reefs, according to a new study.
The study confirms laboratory experiments showing that the behavior of reef fishes can be seriously affected by increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the ocean. The new study is the first to analyze the sensory impairment of fish from CO2 seeps, where pH is similar to what climate models forecast for surface waters by the turn of the century.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/04/fish-acidic-waters-less-able-smell