Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Something's Fishy

In my first post here, I promised you a future post on robotic fish, so here it is. I was going to write about humans possibly evolving from Roswell aliens (kind of à la Stargate), but I've discovered I'm a little too tired to process the science in the article I found, so am therefore too tired to speculate on outcomes, possibilities, and so on. This may be what I get for writing all my posts after midnight. Anyway, the human-alien connection will be coming, probably on Friday.

Would you believe robotic fish are a Thing? Apparently they are. I have not one, not two, not three, but four different ones for you today.

1) Boing Boing reports that MIT reports that several MIT researchers have built a fish-shaped robot to explore areas where other robotic submersibles couldn't go. These "fish" are made of polymers that can flex and bend, so they're more fish-like than previous models, which had multiple sections and would, I imagine, have moved more stiffly with the added bonus of potential leakage of water. Compare that to:

2) Meanwhile, PhysOrg tells us via io9 that the Germans have built what looks like an alien fish skeleton, which can mimic a number of different fishes. The Germans (or someone) have also provided us with video:

If you think the speakers are saying more than the subtitles, you'd be right. The subtitles do hit the important points, though.*

3) And finally, Michigan State University reports** their own fish-bot. I'm not sure where this one differs from the others. The article's all about applications, which are the same ones suggested for the others—minimizing erosion and ecosystem damage, exploring smaller spaces underwater, detecting environmental factors and changes.

That's all well and good, of course, but let's think further here! If you can built a robot to explore the Great Barrier Reef without ruining coral, couldn't you build one to explore Europa or Titan? Or the Moon? They've all got liquid, we're told. Could you use fish-bots to build underwater dwellings? Could you use them to find a different famous gem on the Titanic, and spark a sequel?

Yeah… the Europa idea's the coolest, isn't it? Who needs more Titanic when we have Avatar?

4) And this one is almost certainly decorative.***

* Yeah, I sort of speak German. Very badly.
** Engadget, this time
*** via, of all places, my dad

Monday, December 28, 2009

I Can See The Future (On My Face)

It's a new decade on Friday. Over the past month or so, numerous geeky blogs have been recapping predictions people have made about the 2000s or the year 2010, and probably a few of them have been listing predictions for the next decade*. It's gotten me thinking about the predictions I've encountered in the past, mostly in contexts such as "lol isn't it funny what people thought in the '60s?"

For whatever reason, the three predictions that always come to mind first are computer glasses, disposable paper clothing, and computer wristbands. If you knew me in real life, you'd know I'm not fixated on fashion by a long shot, so I have no idea why I always remember the stuff about clothing.

I do really want computer glasses, though. And guess what? They're real**, and they can beam images onto your retinas.*** They're available as ski goggles, too.**** You can also find glasses filled with fluid,***** so you can continually adjust your prescription, and you can buy glasses with detachable USB drives******.

If you don't wear glasses, you can always wear transition contacts instead******.

There are actually several kinds of fluid glasses. TED has a video about another pair:

I think that's enough links (and asterisks) for the day. I haven't exhausted my future fashion links by any means, but I'll get to those later.

*I can't follow every site, okay?
** Gizmodo
*** Gizmodo
**** Gizmodo
***** Engadget
****** Gizmodo
******* Gizmodo

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

My present to you this year? A skiing robot.*

I guess this means one more parallel between the (Human) Olympic Games and the Robot Olympics, eh?

*via Boing Boing

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Theories of Santa

This year is the first year since I've had an email address that I haven't gotten that Santa Claus vs. physics email meme. You know the one: Santa would have to travel so quickly he'd burn up, no reindeer team could possibly lift a sleigh carrying one doll for every Christian/secular/Christmas-celebrating child in the world, etc. etc. etc.

I'm choosing to see not getting this email as a Good Thing, except for one small problem: I had to get creative with Google with find a decent article that talked about the physics. Or a copy of That Email (scroll down to the second item).

I'll wait for you to read those.

Done? Good. I shall now pick up the science fiction-y aspects of each, and extrapolate.

From the article:
  • Santa uses an ion shield - As we currently do not have widely available ion shield technology, this leaves us with four options. 1) Santa has stolen and elaborated on state-of-the-art technology. 2) Santa is secretly a physicist. 3) Santa comes from a civilization that has perfected the ion shield, i.e. Santa is an alien. 3a) i.e. Santa is a time traveling philanthropist.
  • Santa uses the frictionless environment of space to improve on his travel time - Santa's sleigh is equipped with artificial gravity strong enough to maintain an atmosphere, or Santa and his reindeer all wear spacesuits and carry oxygen tanks. If artificial gravity, see the ion shield explanations.
  • Santa makes use of more than four dimensions - Again, Santa is an alien or a time traveller, as we currently have no way of accessing more than four dimensions (consistently, at least. Who knows what the LHC really does?). Alternatively, Santa can do magic, a fact supported by Christmas folklore and literature, and by the fact that he routinely employs elves. The use of 5+ dimensions would also explain why Santa's workshop is invisible.
  • Santa is Einstein - see: time traveling philanthropist
  • Santa causes global warming - An argument against the philanthropist idea. Perhaps Santa's trying to make the North Pole warm enough to live comfortably and save on the heating costs?
  • Santa uses wool hats as thought-monitoring devices - This is evidence of a massively advanced technology, as there is nothing about wool that makes it useful for monitoring thoughts. Additionally, there would need to be a way to transmit the information over massive distances (such as radio waves) and again, there's no evidence of a transmitter in any wool hat I've ever seen. See: time traveller; alien.
  • Santa's reindeer use vacuum energy to fly - Further advanced technology. Possibly evidence of a) mutant reindeer or b) alien lifeforms that bear a strong resemblance to Earth reindeer.
From the email archive:
  • Santa's reindeer are a new species - This is entirely possible, given that we've discovered a number of species in Papua New Guinea and the Himalayas, but is made less plausible by the extent of exploration that's taken place in the world's arctic regions, the reindeer's natural habitat. Perhaps Santa uses the North Pole as a wildlife preserve. Possibly these reindeer have evolved to resemble robots (strong skin, flight, ability to withstand massive heat, weights, and speeds). Possibly they are, in fact, robots (or cyborgs).
  • Santa's faster-than-light travel slows down time - This presupposes that Santa can travel faster than light. Since he can't be teleporting (there's documented evidence of him and his sleigh flying, landing on roofs, etc.), he must be using advanced technology again.
  • There are multiple Santa Clauses - Cloning! Or the theory from the archive, that there's actually a family of Clauses. This would mean that there are multiple teams of reindeer, which would give support to the wildlife preserve idea.
  • Santa realizes all possible quantum states, or exists as one "particle" spread over a great distance - a) alien b) transhuman c) magical d) Schroedinger's Santa. There's no other way he'd be able to reestablish himself in one place, at one time, without one of the above. As various people in the archive point out, this also accounts for his invisibility while visiting houses.
  • Santa uses guided-missile type technology to drop presents down chimneys without landing - I personally don't believe this, because there's too much documented evidence of him going down chimneys. However, if you want to go with this idea, what parameters would Santa need to key the homing tech to, to land the gifts under the tree without hitting anything? Does it go for anything green, big, and triangular? Do we even have the ability to guide missiles without using a heat signature as the target? I call advanced technology again.
  • Rudolph's nose is not actually red, but is red-shifted during flight - Plausible, given the speeds he'd be moving at.
  • Santa is dosing his reindeer - Perhaps it's the hour I'm writing this, but I'd say this is possible. Not particularly nice of Santa in the long run, though. The reindeer would have massive burn-out or withdrawal symptoms come Boxing Day. Continuing the routine year after year would also likely shorten their lifespans.
  • Santa's reindeer fly in the same way that Arthur Dent flies, i.e., they just forget to hit the ground - This is so silly it has to be true.
  • Santa's workshop is situated at a wormhole nexus - If so, what else is coming through? And how can we make use of this remarkable resource?
I would also like to add that Santa has a personal cloaking device, a larger one for his sleigh and reindeer, and an even larger one for his workshop. He must. We never see him, do we?

I know I've put forward a few theories about Santa's origins—alien, transhuman, time traveller, elf—and the technology available to him. You can choose any of them, or none of them, or a combination (time traveling elf from another planet). I won't be hurt if you do.

Me, though? I'm going with "alien". Santa is totally an alien.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm Not Actually Cold Right Now

December means winter (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), and winter generally means snow, ice, and cold—and everything we humans have invented to ward off the chill. One of the earliest methods and the most fun is fire. There's just something about flames that's fascinating, that draws us in, that speaks to something primal in us. Perhaps this is a window into the psyche of the supervillain?

So, in honor of winter, today we're talking about fireplaces. The homes of the future (or today, if you're blessed with money) might include:

a) a fire pit embedded in a table*

b) a rotating fire pit suspended from the ceiling** (40 years old, but whatever)

c) a fireplace in a suitcase ***

d) a fireplace that doubles as a dragon's egg *** (click the top box on the linked site for a description)

Of course, if you don't actually want an open combustion reaction in your living room, you can always go with the radiator coffee table.**** This one has the added benefit of looking like ice but never melting. It's shiny.

And if you ever needed to survive on a hostile planet, abandoned space station, or post-apocalyptic Earth, you'd want Wicked Laser's Torch. The Torch flashlight is capable of burning papermelting plastic, and cooking eggs.****

So, I know all of today's features are out there already, if you can pay, but imagine a world far enough into the future that you and I could afford them. Wouldn't it be nice to come home after a long day, light the table, and cook dinner while watching a holovid from the couch? What a gorgeous way to ward off winter's chill.

… Actually, now that I imagine some of the price tags, we might have climate control before we'll have rotating fires in every home. Winter will be obsolete. Oh well.

* Boing Boing Gadgets
** Boing Boing and Gizmodo
*** Gizmodo
**** Gizmodo

***** Gizmodo

Friday, December 18, 2009

"ology" means it's science, right?

I've come across a few articles and blog posts lately regarding ufology and cryptozoology, and since they're both kind of fantasy, kind of science, and slightly more than kind of cool, I'm going to wrap up this week of non-science fiction science by dumping the articles/posts on you. Nice of me, huh?

Under Ufology, we have the recent recurrence of cattle mutilations in Colorado.*
Four calves, all killed overnight. Their innards gone. Tongues sliced out. Udders carefully removed. Facial skin sliced and gone. Eyes cored away. Not a single track surrounding the carcasses, which were found in pastures locked behind two gates and a mile from any road. Not a drop of blood on the ground or even on the remaining skin.

There are more descriptions of the mutilations in the article, along with words like "laser" and "I do believe it was UFOs". Whatever's killing cows, it's not a predatory animal (like a cougar). That's a given, because of the nature of many of the injuries.

And while we're on the topic of potential aliens, a mysterious spiral** was sighted over Norway about the same time, although it turned out to be a failed Russian missile launch.*** I was disappointed.

On to cryptozoology now. In case there's anyone out there not familiar with the word, cryptozoology "refers to the search for animals which are considered to be legendary or otherwise nonexistent by mainstream biology." **** This includes Bigfoot, Nessie and other lake monsters, chupacabras, jackalopes, living fossils, and any animal of extreme proportions or which is reported to be somewhere it doesn't belong—like big cats in Australia.

For a bit more of an overview, with a twist, see Boing Boing's interview with Loren Coleman, founder of the International Cryptology Museum, and a video tour of Coleman's collection, also done by Boing Boing. Coleman is also involved in the Cryptomundo blog, if you feel like reading daily posts related to this topic.

That's all cool, of course, but not near as cool (to me, anyway) as this next little tidbit, which I got from io9 and also by perusing Cryptomundo: we may know where to find Bigfoot bones, should such things exist.

Apparently porcupines the world over horde bones so they can knaw on them later (kind of like squirrels and acorns), so if we track down these caches of bones, we might get lucky with a Bigfoot bone or two. Or we might not, because Bigfoot might not be real.*****

I'm almost tempted to get into camo gear, push my way into the wilderness, and start following random porcupines. Almost. I have pathetically few wilderness survival skills, so this is something I'm going to have to leave for the experts.

Bigfoot might be one of the most famous cryptids (as evidenced by his memoir), and Nessie might be another, but did you know Nessie has an extended family? One of his/her relatives, Champ of Lake Champlain, Vermont, was captured on a camera phone back in May.***** I came across the video on Boing Boing and you can see it here. Embedding's been disabled due to popularity, unfortunately, or I wouldn't be making you click that link.

And as you might expect, Cryptomundo's done a couple posts on the subject, one as breaking news and one with a stablized video and more coverage of the spread of the story.

That's it for me for today. Next week, because it's almost Christmas, expect a winter/holiday theme. After that, I suspect it'll be back to the regular programming.

* io9
** linking to the Gizmodo post, because the originals are in Norwegian.
*** linking to Gizmodo because they don't give me originals, plus they have a video
**** Wikipedia
***** Maybe. You always have to be cautious about these things, because of the debunkers.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Have Stake, Will Travel

The road is little more than a strip of mud and weeds winding its way through a deep, primeval Romanian forest. The wind and rain are lashing you as if determined to leech your life, and your cloak is already too sodden to provide protection. All you can see is darkness layered on darkness, and it brings to mind the folk tales you've heard every night since Prague. A chill ghosts up your spine, and then another as a low, mournful howl begins somewhere to your left—or is it your right? Your horse shies to the side of the road, under the fingerlike branches, and as you're guiding it back to the center of the track, you see movement along the trees on the other side of the road. In all honesty, you should think "wolf", but instead you're reminded again of the tales of the strigoi, the animated, bloodthirsty corpses said to haunt this country. Your heart pounding, you carefully reach into your saddlebag and draw out a stake…

What does this have to do with science, you ask? Absolutely nothing, unless you want to get into the medical conditions which may or may not have provoked the stories. But technology? Oh yes. There is technology.

See, if you were a wealthy person planning a trip through Eastern Europe in the mid-1800s, you'd be able to buy a vampire killing kit* before you left. Not only could you get stakes, Bibles, and crosses in the things, but (judging by the photos) guns, vials of liquids, syringes, scalpels, and knives were also available.** With your trusty box of supplies, there would be no way that a vampire could ever get one over on you. (Does it surprise you that a number of these were hoaxes and cons?)

There's a story there, or maybe several, ranging from The Kit That Worked Spectacularly to The Kit That, Um, Really Kind Of Didn't.

Go on. Write it. You know you want to.

* via io9
** Of course, if you were going to Italy instead, you just needed to pack a brick.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Jaunt in a TARDIS

So far, I've been focussing on the future of technology—what's going to come and what we already have—but that's only a small part of my mandate here. I haven't discussed fantasy, for instance, or horror, or superheroes, or steampunk. This is a woeful failing, no? I think so, anyway, and I plan to fix it. Expect non-futuristic posts this week.

To start off, I'm actually bypassing steampunk completely and heading for the Middle Ages. Why? Because I want to introduce one of the very earliest computers: the astrolabe. Astrolabes are gadgets that let you measure distances, tell time, find your position in the world, and so on, and so on, with a minimum of moving parts.

Here, have a video*:

Neat, huh? Who knew those medieval types were so clever and advanced! And Wujec's only touching the surface, at that.

And now, my own list of things to do with an astrolabe:

  • work into a fantasy story, in a cameo role
  • work into a fantasy story, in a supporting role
  • work into a fantasy story, in a pivotal role
  • do what Gibson and Sterling did with the difference engine and The Difference Engine**, except, y'know, earlier
  • write an alternate history starting Geoffrey Chaucer. I bet he'd make a great hero.

Then again, with my luck, somebody's probably already done all that. In which case, give me titles! Please!

* In case it's not obvious, I found this on
** Steampunk! Alternate history!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Space Travel, the Wacky Way!

Let's face it. Someday our planet is going to get too crowded and too used-up to hold all of humanity. At this point, or hopefully before that, we are going to need to get off this rock and find another one to call home. Writers and visionaries and scientists have been coming up with ways to fly since Icarus and the Ramayana*. Slightly more recently, we've gotten Verne and Wells, who actually broke people away from their planets' gravity, followed the Golden Age of science fiction and all the cheesy movies of the 1950s. This was soon followed, of course, by government bodies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Russian Federal Space Agency (RFSA), and the European Space Agency (ESA), all of whom have been limiting themselves almost completely to the standard but inefficient rocket engine.

At the present moment, we have several popular, theoretical ways of actually achieving meaningful space travel (and by meaningful, I mean, further than the moon, because really? Been there, done that.) My favourites are the ion thruster and the solar sail, because they promise fairly cheap, green travel over long periods of time. Oh, and the antimatter drive, but that's only because I find the whole idea of antimatter cool.  There are actually going to be solar sail tests**!

So far, this is probably old news for most of you, right? Sorry. Just wanted to make sure we were all up to speed. Because there are other ways.

First up is the gravitational space corridor***, in which we position spacecraft in naturally-occurring channels of low energy and let them "fall" between moons or planets. We wouldn't need much fuel, because the gravity or lack thereof would provide most of the motion.

Second in line is the air gun****. This is not something to be used on humans, because the g-forces are enough to kill, but for supplies, it's plausible. And yes, it's basically what it sounds like. You stick whatever you want to leave Earth into the barrel of a huge hydrogen-powered gun, and fire. (We could then use plasma rockets for course correction and other forms of steering once the material's left atmo.*****)

Here, have a video of said rocket in testing:

Third and for the moment lastly is the black hole engine.****** Yes, you read that right. Some black holes emit Hawking radiation, and that radiation could be used as a power source. You'd just need the technology to create a black hole, and a way to keep it stable, and then you're set. A civilization using this method would probably be at least a Type II on the Kardashev Scale, I'd imagine, so it'll be a while.

Moral of the post: next time you're getting ready to create a space-faring civilization, don't go with the boring old ion thrusters and nuclear rockets and anti-gravity. Pick something from the list I just gave! You'll stand out.******* (I bet there are all kinds of things that could go wrong if you were powering a ship with a black hole. Nudge nudge, wink wink.)

* I'm serious.
** via Boing Boing
*** via io9
**** via Futurismic
***** not my idea. Credit goes to the folks at Futurismic (see above)
****** via io9
******* This is simply my opinion. It's not a promise, so please don't sue if you listen to me and don't stand out.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Let It Glow, Let It Glow, Let It Glow

We all know about transgenic florescent animals, right? The glowing mice, dogs, monkeys, and the recently announced prairie voles*. They're created by injecting specific jellyfish genes into embryos, which then develop naturally. At the moment, these animals are made for the lab, intended for experiments and furthering biological knowledge. The next stage of Messing With Glowing DNA is probably going to be working animals, provided there are places where florescent horses, goats, dogs, cows, or llamas would be better suited than their boring non-glowy counterparts. After that, we'll have glowing pets.

The stage we'll probably never actually see is the Glowing Human. We could go to nightclubs and glow without makeup! There've got to be actually "good" uses for that technology, too. Underground exploration? Color-coding social classes or tribal affiliation? Or maybe there's a naturally florescent or luminescent alien race out there, and the only way they'll accept us is if we glow as well?

This wasn't even what I was planning to talk about today. I wanted to discuss the salmon DNA LED**. This is a very cool lightbulb even without the DNA component. It absorbs UV light and then emits it as blue, orange, or white light, based on how much dye is used to coat the LED. This dye is where the DNA comes in—it's being used as a nanofiber.

Using DNA will also make these bulbs last longer, since DNA is a super-strong polymer. Just think, if these become commercialized, we may never need to change lightbulbs again!

We'd probably still have lightbulb jokes, though. Some things will never die.

* via Gizmodo
** via io9

Monday, December 7, 2009

Disco Robot Uprising Imminent?

On November 28th, 2009, the 6th Annual ROBO-ONE Gate Competition took place in Toyko, Japan. For the uninitiated (including myself), ROBO-ONE is a series of competitions for bipedal robots. There are lots of different categories (see the Wikipedia link*). I'm assuming the "Gate" category refers to dancing, because that's what the videos I initially came across are of: dancing bipedal robots.**

Here's the 2009 Second Place Contestant, performing to "Thriller" by none other than the late Michael Jackson:

And the 2009 First Place Contestant, performing to "Joyful", by an unknown-to-me J-Pop singer:

Now, I honestly don't see these small, agile, moon-walking bots taking us over anytime soon, but whatever angle I look at these videos from, those robots are pretty impressive. And their flexibility, agility, rhythm, and learning skills will be put to good use as we move further towards the robots of science fiction.

If you want more dancing robot videos (or ROBO-ONE videos in general) this Youtube channel is the place to find them.

*which I'm totally not getting my info from
** My thanks to Gizmodo for bringing this to my attention.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My kitchen is boring

Reason 1: Lack of magnetic spice rack.* I'm aware this isn't exactly sci-fi, but imagine what would happen on a spacecraft without artificial gravity? Especially if it had to dodge asteroids, space pirates, or enemy fighters. This is an essential part of every spaceman's kitchen. 

Reason 2: Lack of portable fridge.** (I do not know what is up with the pics on that site, or the lack of explanation. Go here.) The Neff is a fridge that looks like a cooler, charges off excess kitchen energy (stoves, for example), and can be stored anywhere once it's charged. It also comes in a range of colours. I can see this becoming common as the desires for energy conservation and sustainability increase (and the technology prices drop). 

Reason 3: Lack of fridge-table-appliances-workstation.*** I don't know about you, but if I could cook, eat, wash dishes, and surf the net all at once without ever standing up, I just might do it. This is only a design, unfortunately, but hopefully we'll get there soon. Or if we don't, could someone please write this into a TV show or a movie? It would look perfect on a spaceship, I swear. Or possibly a cyberpunkish dystopia? 

Reason 4: Lack of teleporting fridge, et al.**** Teleporting fridge? Enough said. But a future kitchen might also hold a device that cooks genetically engineered food, a 3D food printer, a robotic greenhouse, a water purifier that catches rainwater with robotic baseballs, and a dishwasher that doubles as a cabinet. (The link will also tell you about a waterless washing machine and a steam cleaner, but those are marginally less cool.)

Reason 5: Lack of automatic cabinets and biometrics.***** Yes! For only an incredible amount of money, you too can have the luxury of walking into your kitchen, waving your arms around, and having your customized hardwood cupboards open for you! This offer also includes the ability to lock individuals out of the wine cellar, freezer, or double stove based on fingerprints and/or proximity. 

This would be very cool to play with but probably not great to live with. I'd set off the cupboards constantly, and then there's the worry about misprogramming the system and locking myself out of the fridge. Or having the drawer sensors wear out. Or having the kitchen evolve sentience and attack me for eating ice cream at midnight. Perhaps telling people about my possessed kitchen would make up for that? I do like scaring people…. 

Darn it, now I'm hungry.

* Yanko Design via Boing Boing
** Eltopo via The Design Blog
*** dornob via io9
**** Electrolux Design Lab via io9
***** AnvilMotion via Boing Boing Gadgets

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Possibilities of Porken

After a long of dithering and worry and vague panic and nail biting and procrastination, I'm starting this blog. (If there's anyone out there who's been bating their breath for me to say those words, I apologize. I hope this blog is all you're expecting.)

Part of the delay in starting was not knowing how to start. There's so much technology already out there, so much being invented and improved upon, and so much fodder in sci-fi, fantasy (and horror, never forget horror), that it's really hard to pick any one thing that'll give readers a taste of what's to come. See, I want this blog to be a semi-news source for What's New and Exciting, a place to be just generally geeky about sci-fi, fantasy, and science, and a place to discuss and generate ideas for speculative fiction.

This is a tall order. I know this. It seems to have gotten taller since I hit on the idea. Possibly it's the size of Godzilla at the moment.

To get over the blogger's block, I've pulled out the tried and true method of Close My Eyes and Pick Something At Random.

And so, our topic for today is … vat-grown meat*. You know, like what we're all going to be eating when a) we run out of animals, b) we run out of enough animals to feed everyone, or c) we all move to spaceships and space stations? Well, when our great-great-grandchildren are munching on fried vat-chicken in orbit around Alpha Centauri, they'll be able to thank a team of scientists at Eindhoven University in the Netherlands.

Here's how they did it:

1. Remove special cells from the muscles of a live pig.
2. Stick the cells in a nutrient solution to encourage them to multiply.
3. Wait.
4. Wait some more.
5. Get a hunk of naturally boneless pork.

There're a few problems that need to be solved still. The pork is soft and sticky, because it hasn't had the exercise a live, active, whole pig would have, so we'll have to invent a way to toughen it up. The solution the pork is grown in is currently made from animal fetuses (ew), so we'll need to invent a synthetic broth. And the scientists aren't allowed to eat the pork due to lab rules, health concerns, etc., so we have no idea how the stuff tastes.

The good news? The scientists are predicting five years until the product is marketable. Pigs everywhere will rejoice.

All righty, folks, time for that "generate sci-fi ideas" segment of today's program. I'll start. Pitch in if you feel like it.

To solve the exercise problem, clamp the pork onto a machine that will pull on it at varying speeds, mimicking walking, running, and so on. Start this when you have a small hunk and keep it up as the hunk gets larger and attains the desired consistency. I'm no scientist, but I'm betting you'd get better results if you kept the pork in solution while you did that. Alternatively, you could make the pork grow onto artificial bones attached to a robot, and then make the robot move. (This would be easy if you grew the pork onto a robotic fish.** More on those later.)

If we go with the robot idea, we'd essentially be creating cyborg pigs, or be a step or two away from doing so. And I doubt it would be that much harder to create a cyborg human by this method, so long as we got rid of those pesky anti-cloning laws first.

What a world with cyborg clones would be like? Who'd make these cyborgs? What would they be used for? Would the same kind of people who stuff their dead pets create cyborg pets from Rover's body? Would everything be robotic and artificial except for the flesh, or would we have progressed to bioware by then?

Going back to the concept of fried vat-chicken over Alpha Centauri, would there be one single machine or bank of machines to grow the stuff? Would there be an official Meat Exercise Machine Attendant? Would cafeteria workers need advanced biology degrees? What happens if there's contamination or cross-contamination? Would our descendants think it was normal to be eating giraffe or alligator, or hybrids like bork or fishken or, heck, giraffigator?

I'm sure I've only touched the surface here. Anyone?

London Times via io9
** MIT News via BoingBoing