Stories tagged food

Jul
19
2005


Microscopic image of turkey muscle cells grow in culture.: Image Credit: University of Maryland

A recent article in the journal Tissue Engineering proposes two ways for laboratories to grow artificial meat. One method would be to grow cells from common livestock animals like cows or chickens in large flat sheets. The thin sheets would then be stacked to resemble meat. The other proposed method would be to grow muscle cells on small beads that stretch with small changes in temperature. The tissue produced could be used to make processed meat such as hamburgers or chicken nuggets.

The research is being done at the University of Maryland and is based on experiments NASA has conducted to grow artificial meat for space missions.

But why produce artificial meat commercially?

One reason would be to make meat healthier for the consumer. Meat contains a lot of omega-6 fatty acid, which is good, but not in large amounts. The omega-6 fatty acids could be replaced with omega-3 fatty acids which are more beneficial.

Another reason is that raising livestock has a huge environmental impact. Livestock require millions of gallons of water, large amounts of land, and produce huge amounts of waste. The use of artificial meat would help to protect the environment by potentially reducing the number of livestock needed to meet the demands for meat.

Further, the production and consumption of meat has many additional potential issues including meat-borne pathogens and contaminants, antibiotic-resistant bacteria due to the routine use of antibiotics in livestock, and inhumane treatment of farm animals.

The author of the paper, University of Maryland doctoral student Jason Matheny, sees so many advantages in the production of artificial meat that he joined several other scientists in starting a nonprofit, New Harvest, to advance the idea.

Would you eat artificial meat?

Feb
25
2005

If the Venus fly trap doesn't have any muscles, how can it snap closed on its prey in less than 1/10 of a second? Harvard mathematician Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan might have the answer. He discovered that a Venus fly trap uses water pressure to keep its leaves on the brink of slamming shut. When a fly or something else lands inside the plant, tiny hairs trigger an electrochemical reaction. This moves water between the cells of the Venus fly trap's leaves. In the blink of an eye, the plant's bent leaves become unstable and slam shut.

Mahadevan compared this to a bent contact lens or a halved tennis ball. The slightest tap will cause the lens or tennis ball to quickly snap back into shape. Researchers still don't fully understand how the plant triggers the water pressure change.

You're wondering why a mathematician was studying a plant? A student gave Mahadevan a Venus fly trap as a gift. Curious about how the plant's behavior, he used a high-speed camera to watch it eating its prey. From these videos, he developed a mathematical model of the plant's movements. (A mathematical model is a very realistic simulation of the real world using measurements and many mathematical calculations.) His model unraveled the mystery of this carnivorous plant.

Feb
10
2005

Scientists have long wondered about the reason for the star nosed mole's unusual schnozz. There have been many theories. Some thought the star was a souped-up smell organ that helped the moles sniff their way around underground. Some thought it was an extra "hand" for grasping prey. And some thought it was an antenna to detect electric fields as moles swim through muddy marsh water. A 1995 study finally proved that the stars are super-sensitive touch organs. And a study just published in Nature advances a theory about why the stars are so big.

Fact, Pics, and Video of the Star Nosed MoleThe 22 "fingers" of the star have a surface area eight times greater than the nose of the mole's close cousin, the eastern mole. The fingers also allow the mole to quickly tap on objects it comes across—13 times a second, compared to the eastern mole's eight times a second. That means the star-nosed mole can find 14 times the number of food items than the eastern mole can in a given amount of time. The advantage really pays off where there are lots of small prey animals, as in the marshy homes of star-nosed moles.

  • It takes a driver about 650 milliseconds to hit the brake after seeing a traffic light ahead turn red.
  • In 650 milliseconds, in the dark, a star-nosed mole can detect a worm or insect larva, determine that it is edible, and eat it.
  • The human record for eating hard-boiled eggs is 65 eggs in 6 minutes and 40 seconds, or six seconds per egg.
  • But a star-nosed mole can eat 10 mouthful-sized chunks of earthworm, one at a time, in 2.3 seconds—0.23 seconds per chunk. That's more than 26 times as fast as the human record for eating hard-boiled eggs. In fact, it's the fastest eating ever measured in any mammal.

Be sure to check out the videos of the mole eating, in real time and slow motion, on the linked website. They're amazing!