THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- MAY 29, 2021
Last week's column dealt with some pretty fantastic things that may be in your future. Well, as they say about those products Made for TV: “Wait, there's more!” More than 3D pasta and Spot the Robo-dog from a week ago? How can that be?
The simple truth is that what seems ridiculously far-fetched today could be commonplace at some point. Twenty years ago did you think you'd pay a buck for twelve ounces of water in a bottle? Did you imagine the day would come when you'd recharge your car instead of refilling the gas tank? Seniors, did you ever guess there would be a time when you'd have to ask your first-grader grandchild how to operate your own phone? I rest my case. So, onward we go.
This week a bottle of Pétrus 2000 wine that was aged for fourteen months on the International Space Station went up for sale. It's an experiment by French startup Space Cargo Unlimited. Tabbed "Vitis Vinum in Spatium Experimentia," the effort means "grape wine in the distance experiment.”
An auction on Christie’s Private Sales says: “The proceeds of the sale will go towards funding future space missions, offering collectors an opportunity to acquire a piece of vinous and space history while also contributing to ongoing research.” Oh, by the way, the bottle will probably go for about $1million. It seems like a lot of money, but they are sweetening the deal by including a corkscrew crafted from a meteorite. (https://www.christies.com/about-us/press-archive/detailsPressReleaseID=10056&lid=1)
Space wine seems to interest a lot of vinters. A new study found that red wine in space may age faster than on Earth. “Red wine stored at the International Space Station for more than a year tasted a bit different than its terrestrial counterparts and, surprisingly, aged faster, too.”
Researchers shipped twelve bottles of Bordeaux wine to the space station on a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft in November 2019. They determined: “Compared to a bottle of the same wine that aged for the same amount of time on Earth, the wine that aged at the International Space Station was maybe one to two or even three years further evolved than you would expect from the one that had remained on Earth.” I can't help but wonder if all this wine research will lead to an increase in volunteers to serve on the ISS. (https://www.space.com/red-wine-in-space-aged-faster)
On a more serious front, another experiment might be promising news if it does become reality. “Imagine a family in crisis. The father has a heart problem and needs a replacement. A transplant becomes available, and he’s rushed into surgery. Only the heart isn’t from another human. It’s completely artificial, and on top of that, it was made in space. It was constructed in a bioprinter — 3D printers used to fabricate organs and tissues — on a space station and then flown back to Earth.”
Crazy, right? Perhaps, but consider this. “Manufacturing processes in multiple industries, from electronics to medicines, are hindered by gravity and would be easier in a vacuum. That’s why a growing number of researchers and companies are now looking to the skies and beyond to build a select group of high-tech products. Some of our most sophisticated future factories might be located in space.”
Some experts scoff at this idea because researchers don’t have the knowledge needed to produce entire organs in a bioprinter. On the other hand, one researcher notes: “This is a technology that perpetually seems to be five years away, but we’re trying to chip away at that timeline with every experiment we do.” Seems to me figuring out ways to save lives is a good thing. You too? (https://www.ozy.com/the-new-and-the-next/need-a-new-heart-get-it-from-space/429096/)
Closer to the ground, a nifty invention by a Dutch design firm is bringing new meaning to the phrase “let there be light.” The company touts: “Bloomlight brings the natural world to life by blooming in your presence.”
Here's how it works. “The lamp head, made out of painted wooden slats connected by fabric, are connected to the motor. When it’s activated, a 3D-printed mechanism in the lamp begins to turn and pushes the slats open. This is all triggered when a LiDAR sensor detects people walking by. That triggers the motor, which causes the lamp to bend toward the person and the lamp shade to open up and bloom.” See this in operation at: https://www.fastcompany.com/90623419/these-shapeshifting-streetlights-are-slow-tech-at-its-finest.
Something is also in the works that may make sitting in your backyard more pleasant. Specifically, doing something about mosquitoes. The tests are going on in Florida right now.
“The biotech firm Oxitec has released its genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, with the goal of suppressing wild, disease-carrying mosquito populations in the region. This is the first time genetically modified mosquitoes have been released in the U.S. Oxitec's modified mosquitoes, all male, have been engineered to carry a lethal gene; when the modified pests mate with wild female mosquitoes, the lethal gene gets passed on to their offspring. Only female mosquitoes bite people, so the modified mosquitoes and their surviving male offspring can't pass diseases to humans.”
There is a cautionary aspect to these experiments. “Questions remain about whether the genetically modified mosquitoes will have unintended effects on local mosquitoes, animals or the ecosystem at large.” Still, these experiments bear watching. (https://www.livescience.com/first-genetically-modified-mosquitoes-us.html)
Finally, we all know what Memorial Day commemorates. However, the day may also afford an opportunity for a bit of explanation and education. To wit: A small boy was staring at the names on the wall of an old church when the pastor noticed him. “What are you looking at?” asked the clergyman. “All those names. Who are they?” the boy asked. The pastor nodded, and said, “They are the reason we have Memorial Day. They are those who died in the service.” The little boy considered that, then asked quietly, “The 9 o’clock service or the 11 o’clock?”