Newsletter | July 27th, 2017
This week we’re talking about robotic eels tracking water pollution, building DNA from scratch👨🔬, the first floating wind farm💨, and the first solar-powered train ☀️🚆.
ENVIRONMENT . Robotic eels vs water pollution
We have certainly measured water pollution before. But what about measuring water pollution with a robotic eel? Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology 🇨🇭 and other institutions created a swimming machine that emulates an eel’s undulating motion. The researchers believe this type of robot measures pollution levels faster and more effectively than other methods. The undulating motion is actually better than propeller-based robots because propellers can kick up mud and disturb aquatic life, resulting in compromised data.
As the eel robot swims it sends information back to a remote computer in real-time. Even better, the robot can be programmed to swim towards more and more contaminated water, effective for finding sources of pollution. Nothing like using nature as an inspiration to help protect nature. 🌊👍
LIFE . DNA built from scratch, full genome likely built by end of year? 😲
Forget modifying the DNA code, what about building DNA completely from scratch? Jef Boeke at New York University leads an international team of 11 labs to “rewrite” the yeast genome. The intention is that in the short term they could insert human-made DNA into living cells, possibly providing a treatment for diseases. In the long-term? Possibly creating new organisms. As one scientist cautioned, “It’s not only a science project. It’s an ethical and moral and theological proposal of significant proportions.”
Rewriting the yeast genome won’t be easy, requiring millions of DNA letters to be altered, added, and deleted. For this reason, they have split up the task between 11 labs spread throughout four continents. They are already one-third of the way through. In fact, they aim to have the rest of the yeast genome built by the end of the year! Let’s see…
(More) ENVIRONMENT . The world’s first floating wind turbines in 🇬🇧
Floating wind turbines are now a reality, thanks to the company Stratoil (🇳🇴) & UK government subsidies. The floating turbines will be situated 15 miles from the coast of Scotland, to make a floating farm called Hywind. It’s expected that the floating turbines will produce enough power for 20,000 homes. The cost of wind power has seen a significant drop in recent years and may soon be cheaper than nuclear power. The UK has been a leading nation in the deployment of wind power as an alternative energy source.
They have the world’s largest turbines in the Irish Sea off the north-west of England. Guess who has the biggest collection of wind power on the planet? The UK. In fact, at the moment the collective capacity of all of the UK’s wind turbines can power 4.3 million homes. And they’re looking to double their wind capacity by 2020. 🇬🇧💨
TRANSPORTATION . More firsts, the first solar-powered train 🇮🇳
The first solar-powered train started moving this past week, along a 12.5-mile route near Delhi, India. The train isn’t fully solar-powered, it is a diesel-electric hybrid, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Its solar-powered battery can power the train by itself for up to 72 hours. While Indian Railways has used embedded solar-panels since 2015, they only used the solar power to power interior lights and air conditioning. Now, the entire train can run from solar power, again, for up to 72 hours.
The UK is also looking to get their trains off the grid, and power them from the sun. However, the UK project would likely source its solar power from elsewhere, not driectly mounted to the trains themselves. That makes the Indian solar-powered trains that much more unique, panels on the train itself is powering the train forward. 🚆+☀️ is pretty futuristic. 👍