This week: An Antarctic base on skis, combating dengue fever with GM mosquitoes, stem cell therapy to combat HIV, enormous skyscrapers packed with green tech, and a battle between giant robots.
Antarctic Ski Station
CONSTANT darkness, bone-chilling temperatures and cut off from the rest of the world. Living in Antarctica isn’t for the faint-hearted – and I should know, I overwintered there a while back. But at least I lived in a base built on rock; it’s quite another matter when your home sits on top of a floating ice shelf. This is Halley VI, the Antarctic’s most futuristic construction so far.
It needs to be to escape the fate of four of its predecessors, which were crushed beneath the accumulating snow. This is why it stands on long jackable legs. But the most unusual feature of this award-winning British Antarctic Survey base is that it can be towed to a new location thanks to huge skis – a good idea as the ice shelf it sits on moves seawards at a rate of 700 metres a year before eventually calving off into icebergs.
The insect assassins have been launched. Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes have descended on the Brazilian city of Piracicaba in the battle against dengue and a test in Florida is also in prospect.
The GM mosquitoes are all male, and when they mate with native females, they pass on a gene to offspring that causes the larvae to die before they mature.
Fighting HIV With Stem Cells
Scientists at the UCLA Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research are one step closer to engineering a tool that could one day arm the body’s immune system to fight HIV — and win. The new technique harnesses the regenerative capacity of stem cells to generate an immune response to the virus.
Towering Pollution Scrubbers
When it comes to architectural superlatives China is already home to the world’s largest building, biggest dam and longest sea bridge, to name a few. But soon, the Middle Kingdom plans to also be home to the world’s tallest, greenest — and pinkest — structure.
The British architectural studio Chetwoods recently unveiled its proposal to build a pair of pollution-scrubbing towers atop a lake in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The project, dubbed the Phoenix towers, will serve as massive beacons of China’s government-led focus on sustainability, and hopefully rake in big bucks from tourism. Both towers will be packed with environmentally friendly technologies on a grand scale, and the taller of the two buildings will rise 450 feet above the world’s highest structure, the Burj Khalifa.
Giant Robots Set To Duel
“Suidobashi, you have a giant robot, we have a giant robot. You know what needs to happen.”
With these fighting words, a new, robo-martial space race era was born. U.S.-based robotics company MegaBots issued the challenge late last month, as it put the finishing touches to its Mark 2 model, “America’s first fully-functional, giant piloted robot.”
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