By Amber Williams
Posted 04.02.2013 at 10:47 am 6 Comments
It’s not easy to see what’s going on in a handful of dirt, so some labs use gels and other substitutes to grow plants when they study them. Unfortunately, roots and most of the organisms that interact with them don’t grow as well in fakes. That’s why researchers at Scotland’s nonprofit James Hutton Institute have developed a transparent soil that more closely resembles the real deal.
For people who like the Microsoft Kinect but also the simple joys of nature, the dream makers at Disney Research have just smashed together that particular peanut butter and chocolate into a magical (and very, deeply strange) new technology: plants that can register movements like a touchscreen, then display those movements, or use them to interact with an electronic device.
In the same way humans might be tempted to binge on some junk food when they're under stress, grasshoppers head for the carbohydrate-rich foods when they get scared. The difference is the grasshoppers can leave behind some big-scale problems for the environment.
Future astronauts en route to Mars or deep-space destinations will need specially designed living quarters and renewable sources of food — so this year’s X-Hab Challenge includes a remotely operated, robotically controlled space garden. Students at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University are developing a workable prototype “bioregenerative food system,” which they’ll deliver to NASA next summer.
A relatively small cluster of genetic information, some of it dating to 60 million years ago, endows the staple fruit of summer with its taste and texture. The secrets of the tomato, star of summer gardens, salads and gazpacho, is now laid out for plant breeders and horticulturists in exacting detail.
Biophotons are optical or ultraviolet photons that are emitted by biological systems and there’s long been a suspicion among some biologists that they are up to something we don’t really understand (biophotons are, by the way, different than much brighter bioluminescence).
Ever wonder exactly where grizzly bears live on this continent? Or where you might find Myotis lucifungus, the fuzzy, adorable little brown bat that is currently threatened with extinction because of white-nose syndrome? Now you can track them on Google Maps, thanks to a new program that aims to plot the location of every single living thing on Earth.
Finely spun starch fibers woven into a bandage could dissolve on your skin and be absorbed by your body, eliminating the sting and hassle of ripping it off in one fast motion. Starch fibers could also be used to produce toilet paper, napkins and other biodegradable products, according to researchers at Penn State.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.