If The Matrix is to be taken as a serious manifesto for the future of technology, then living organisms are a great source of potential energy. Now, a team at Oxford University has given some weight to the idea after successfully simulating a biological power station. Researchers used computers to model the behaviour of bacteria as it swam around a liquid suspension. When they subsequently added a network of donkey wheel-like structures, the bacteria began moving in predictable patterns around the wheels. The motion was sufficient to generate tiny amounts of energy that could be used to power microscopic gadgets.
The universe may be a lonelier place than previously thought. Of the estimated 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, only one in 10 can support complex life like that on Earth, a pair of astrophysicists argues. Everywhere else, stellar explosions known as gamma ray bursts would regularly wipe out any life forms more elaborate than microbes. The detonations also kept the universe lifeless for billions of years after the big bang, the researchers say. Continue reading
They’re the world’s smallest documentary makers. E. coli bacteria have had their DNA hacked so they can store memories of their cellular environment. And they do it in much the same way as an analogue tape recorder. Other more complicated cells should be capable of the feat too, which could pave the way for cellular biographers that can be inserted into our bodies for the inside scoop on our health.