Welcome to Technology Tuesday! Every week The Job Shop Blog will bring you our 5 top science and technology news stories from around the web.
This week: Robot nerves, changing our DNA to have children on Mars, taking a look at what Mars habitats might look like, the world’s largest “virtual” power plant, and preventing food poisoning with a smart phone.
HYPER SENSITIVE FIBERS MIGHT SERVE AS ROBOT NERVES
Sure, some robots may run better than us, and they can dive deep underwater without ever needing to come up for air. But they don’t have our sense of touch—at least, for now. Engineers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland recently published in Advanced Materials on their ultra thin, flexible cables embedded with electrodes.
The inserted conductors mean the plastic can send electronic signals in response to touch. That sure sounds like a human nerve, and the engineers thought so too – which is why the 10-person engineering team, headed by assistant professor Fabien Sorin, thinks their device is an ideal candidate for robotic nerves.
CHANGING OUR DNA MIGHT BE NECESSARY TO REPRODUCE ON MARS
Having a baby on Earth? Not always fun (see: morning sickness, swollen feet, and *gulp* the actual delivery).
Having a baby on Mars, though? That might be downright impossible — unless we’re willing to rework our DNA. This news comes courtesy of a new study published in Futures by researchers from the University of Information Technology and Management in Poland
LIVING IN TUNNELS ON MARS
Most people try their best to avoid residing six feet (or more) underground. But if you want to live on Mars, that might be your only option. This week, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell sat down for an interview with CNBC. During a chat about the synergy between Elon Musk’s various companies, she made a bold prediction about humanity’s potential future on the Red Planet.
“I think the Boring Company could be the way that we house people on Mars. We’ll have to dig tunnels for folks,” she told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan.
Shotwell wasn’t just speculating about her boss’s plans, either. Musk himself has previously touched on the possibility of using Boring Company tech to create underground Martian habitats.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA IS BUILDING THE WORLD’S BIGGEST “VIRTUAL” SOLAR PLANT
The government of South Australia, which changed hands after an election this March, just announced that it would move forward with the previous regime’s agreement with Tesla to install solar panels on 1,100 houses, according to ABC.
The original deal – to create what’s being called the world’s largest virtual power plant – was first struck in February between Tesla and South Australia’s then-dominant Labor Party. But when Steven Marshall of the Liberal Party was elected Premier of South Australia, it was unclear if the government would honor that agreement, or move forward with the Liberal Party’s own plan to subsidize 40 thousand home battery units to bring renewable energy to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it.
SMARTPHONE TECH CAN HELP STOP FOOD POISONING OUTBREAKS
Thirty-five people got sick from E. coli-infected romaine lettuce this past month before the Center for Disease Control (CDC) knew where the greens were from. In total, 75 individuals were hospitalized and one death was recorded in connection with the outbreak. Now, the CDC is advising the public avoid lettuce from Yuma, Arizona.
It’s somewhat simple to avoid an outbreak once the source has been identified. However, what if the farmers never sent out infected produce to begin with? A new foodborne-illness detection technology out of Purdue University is looking to help with just that. The device hooks up to smart phones and lets growers test their foods for bacteria in a matter of minutes.