This Week in
Weird Science: Scientists have created some more animal-free meat, meaning waiters may soon be asking, “Would you like your steak with or without cow?” A team of techsperts have created an eagle eye camera that’s smaller than a grain of salt. And, finally, honeybees apparently communicate with “whoop whoops,” eerily similar to the conservatory habits of Juggalos.
The dream of animal-free meat is alive and nearer.
“Would you like your bacon with pig or without?” might be asked at restaurants sooner than previously thought. A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports revealed that the dream of animal-free meat is alive in at least one laboratory.
The paper initially sought to describe a means for “generating skeletal muscle efficiently from porcine induced pluripotent stem cells in vitro thereby providing a versatile platform for applications ranging from regenerative biology to the ex vivo cultivation of meat.” Or, put so even a child could understand, the paper examined that pig muscle can be created via the pig stem cell line—and not from the animal’s primary cells.
“This entailed understanding the biology of relatively uncharacterized and recently-derived porcine induced pluripotent stem cell lines,” said co-author Dr. Nicholas Genovese, a stem cell biologist (and vegetarian), told Digital Trends. “What conditions support cell growth, survival and differentiation? These are all questions I had to figure out in the lab before the cells could be turned into muscle.”
Of course, this is much more difficult than it sounds—and it already sounds ridiculously difficult. And we all know what they say about cellular differentiation? Shit ain’t easy.
After extensive research during which cellular differentiation caused all of the animal’s cells to die, Genovese and his team were able to identify one solution that allowed stem cells to transition to skeletal muscle. A result they noted, “that is potentially applicable to other pluripotent cell lines and to generating other forms of muscle.”
Skeletal muscle may not sound appetizing, but, we’ll have you know, it is in fact the main component of pork, and the fact that it could be grown from a stem cell line, rather than from an entire pig, is remarkable, especially given the fact that Genovese’s cultivation of pig skeletal muscle didn’t use animal serum, a component commonly used in other livestock muscle cultivation processes.
The motivation behind lab-grown meat has been in the works for many years. What with environmental degradation, food safety, and food security conflicting with the increased global demand for quality meat, scientists have been trying to come up with an innovative solution. But it’s still nowhere near affordable. Right now, you can buy a lab-grown meatball for $1,200.
Scientists have created an “eagle eye” camera as big as a grain of salt.
“Honey, I Shrunk the Camera” should be the title of the latest report out of Science Advances, where a team of scientists, who had James Bond literally on their mind, just created a new camera lens that works the same way eagle—and human—eyes do, despite being the size of a grain of salt.
The latest version of this super camera—cast in plastic with a 3D printer, as if it’s tech on steroids—uses four lenses instead of one. Each lens is set to a different focal length and is mounted on an image-reading microchip that compiles the data into a single image. The idea is to mimic “foveated vision,” a fancy term for simultaneous low resolution and high resolution scanning. For example, eagles, with their deep foveae loaded with cones, use foveated vision to scan a field for prey while simultaneously honing in on prey from a great distance.
Currently, though, the camera has a few kinks to work out. The chip’s resolution is rather low and too bulky for certain types of surgery—the primary use for this type of camera. It also takes hours to 3D-print each individual lens, which might be the ultimate “first world problem.”
But if scientists can smooth out these limitations, you can soon expect to find these cameras floating through our veins in search of disorder or attached to a spy’s lapel because, well, it’s what Bond would want.
Bees yell “whoops” when they bump into each other.
“Whoop whoop!” The call of the juggalo is also the yelp of the honeybee. Long thought to be a signal to other bees to stop what they’re doing, the honeybee “whoop” might actually be an expression of surprise.
Martin Bencsik and a team at Nottingham Trent University in the U.K. recorded the bees vibrations inside hives over the course of a year. What they noticed: bees are constantly “whooping,” as often as six or seven times per minute in the area of the honeycomb. “There’s no way a bee was trying to inhibit another one that frequently, and there’s no way a bee would request food that frequently,” told Bencsik to New Scientist.
See, it was often assumed that the bees “whoop” was interpreted as a “stop” signal to warn fellow bees against foraging in certain locations—e.g. where there’s a predator. It turns out that doesn’t seem to be the case.
The Nottingham Trent team noticed that the signal was actually most common at night, when bees aren’t foraging. They also found it easy to elicit. Just by knocking on the wooden wall of the wive, hundreds of bees cried “whoop.”
As if that wasn’t enough evidence, the team placed a camera inside of the hive, and what they found was basically an even more exaggerated Chris Berman reel.
Top photo by Jim, the Photographer CC BY 2.0
is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen San Diego but with more sunscreen and jorts.