June 30, 2016

Food Grown in Martian Soil and Other Advances

By Chelsea Follett
Drones make personal aircraft a plausible scenario  

While many citizens now own and enjoy drones, a new iteration of the technology may become more prevalent very soon: the passenger drone. Viewed as much more stable and easier to fly than other aircraft (i.e., a helicopter), these drones may provide the general public with the opportunity to fly with minimal training requirements. Developers are also hopeful that in the future remotely controlled passenger drones may be able to be used as an air-alternative to ridesharing apps, with the drone picking someone up and allowing them to fly to their destination. Flying cars may not be readily available yet, but the next best things may be here sooner than we thought.

Predicting death and living healthier lives

Research done on the Drosophila fruit fly at University of California Irvine may reveal a fourth phase of life, the “death spiral” that can help predict a fly’s death to the day. The predictive ability was realized thanks to the strong link between lack of fertility and death amongst males and females, regardless of age. While it is yet to be seen if similar predictions can be made for humans, the researchers believe the results to be promising. Scientists believe to be equally promising the prospect of research revealing clues to shorten this “death spiral,” allowing humans to live as healthily as possible until the moment they die.

Growing bones in a lab  

Pigs have now successfully had lab-grown jaws implanted. Scientists created these bones by saturating cow-bone scaffolds in pig stem cells; they then implanted said jaws into the pigs, which felt no pain and were eating just minutes later. Along with no issues with pain, there were also no occurrences of rejection. While human clinical trials are believed to be at least three years away, the potential uses of the treatment are intriguing to say the least.

R2-D2 and BB-8 may not be far away  

The latest robotic toy, Cozmo, offers a glimpse of the increasing power of AI. While toy robots are nothing new, Cozmo has several unique qualities, most notable being his “emotion engine.” He gets frustrated when he loses a game, happy when he wins and sad when he is ignored. While his speech is not very advanced yet, he offers the most human interaction of widely available robots yet, not that far off from the robots of “Star Wars”.

Food grown in simulated Martian soil is safe to eat  

Researchers from Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands have announced that the plants they grew from Martian-simulated soil are probably safe to eat. They have tested four out of their ten crops, and all have been non-toxic thus far (there was a fear that the higher levels of heavy metals in the soil could be a major problem). While there is a hope that this will one day enhance humans’ ability to grow plants on Mars, there are more immediate potential benefits as well. Scientists hope that the results will provide information on how to best grow crops on Earth in suboptimal soil conditions.

George Reynolds contributed to this blog post.