Science and Technology Links 3/9: The Color of Magic Laser Bubbles

More of what Oscar thought was cool in Science.

Science and Technology Links 3/9: The Color of Magic Laser Bubbles


The Mach 3 Ford Trimotor variant, an aviation classic.

One way we can explore space relatively affordably is to spend less on building ships and habitats here and transporting them across the void, and more on building technology to use local materials to build ships and habitats on site.

The civilian tilt rotor gets closer to a certificate.

This is the next logical step, if you are thinking of going to Mars.  It is kind of annoying that we seem to be forced to follow this development path once again (but I understand why we must, 40 years is a long time).

Trappist Habitability  Yes, this is a huge amount of guess work, but you gotta start somewhere.

VASIMR aka the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket.  I suppose I could be lazy and say it’s a Hall effect ion thruster on steroids, but it is quite a bit more than that.  They key thing to keep in mind is this is not a reactionless drive.  It still needs fuel to turn into plasma.  But a nice, friendly inert gas is a lot easier to deal with than chemical rocket fuel.

Virgin Orbit  It’s a mothership launcher, but there is nothing wrong with that.  If you can use air breathing engines as high as possible, that’s a lot less rocket fuel and mass you need to start out with.  The relationship between starting altitude and launch mass is very much non-linear.

Bio and Medical

As a guy with measurable hearing loss (thank you jet engines…),  This piques my interest.  I see regenerative medicine is taking a stab at eliminating an old age stereotype.

So robots aren’t exactly replacing surgeons, but they sure are helping make surgery better.

Better painkillers from venomous snails.  I can see it now, the black market trade in marine snails skyrockets as poppy fields go fallow.

So diabetes really can get better with diet.

Another reason the anti-fat diet activists should have not been given nearly as much attention as they got.

Using adult stem cells to screen for cancer drug side effects.

A green light for better pain management?

While we wait for custom grown replacement organs, we still need to do things the old fashioned way.  But thanks to some nanoscience, we might get more time to do things the old fashioned way.

The price of vat grown meat is almost competitive.  Looks like it’s ground beef on the offering, which is probably the best place to start, since you can cover all manner of sins with seasoning.

Electronics and Other Tech

Disney Research has a way to wirelessly charge devices in a room.  Yes, that Disney.

Sing it with me!  “Tiny Bubbles!  Tiny, holographics bubbles!”  If we get this to cycle at 30 Hz, we’ll be in business.

But will it lead to a positronic brain?

Smart Holster that can tattle on cops who pull their guns.  It’s not a bad idea.  If a gun is leaving the holster, we probably want a public record, preferably from more than one perspective.

Beating slot machines with an iPhone.

This is actually kinda smart.

Printing a house.  Ok, printing the walls, basically.  Still…  Oh, video at the bottom.


Rhodium and UV light turns CO2 into CH4.

Putting this in energy because it’s about energy, specifically the energy of the earth’s magnetic field.

The Allam Cycle.  I haven’t fully parsed the process, but at first blush it seems reasonable.


Fiber reinforced hydrogel is surprisingly tough!

Improving plastics mechanical properties and recyclability.  Also, using waste products to reduce the cost of making plastic.

A metamaterial that can shape sound.  And levitate objects.  While I’m sure The Sharper Image will turn this into an executive toy in short order, a more practical application is drone propulsion inside a space ship or station.

This sounds like the opening of a sci-fi heist movie.

Creating ceramics at room temperature.  This makes sense, since what heat can do, pressure can often do as well.

Tooth enamel is some pretty impressive stuff.  Impressive enough that we might build airplanes out of it.

Anthropogenic minerals – i.e. minerals that only exist because humans (specifically, post industrial age humans).

Self folding materials are nothing new, and self folding materials that are triggered by light exist.  Now they can be triggered by specific wavelengths (color) of light.  The scientist in me thinks this is pretty neat, the engineer in me is still wondering where I’ll see this in the everyday.

3D Printing with cellulose (plants) derived plastics.  The obvious is less need for petroleum feedstocks.  The less obvious is the use of acetone evaporation for the curing.  Kind of like printing with shellac.


A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget. ...more →

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39 thoughts on “Science and Technology Links 3/9: The Color of Magic Laser Bubbles

  1. It’s bred sivoy kobyly that the casino scam they pulled (in the way they pulled it) is a federal crime, and not just a lifetime disbarment from premises monitored and enforced by the industry itself.

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  2. I know I’m in a crappy, angry-at-the-world mood, but: it seems like the future of dietary health is going to amount to “walk around hungry a lot of the time.”

    (The fasting thing. Which is relevant to my interests as I have a weak family history of type II. I am right now restricting carbohydrates to try to lose weight and it is making me frustrated, sad, and angry. Can’t tell if psychosomatic or if it’s actually mucking with my serotonin)

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  3. RE: Hearing Regeneration.

    I think this is going to be as interesting for how we buy it as it is for the technology itself (which is amazing, by the way, hearing loss is one of the things that strongly affects quality of life–and it affects people of all ages, not only older persons or those exposed to loud noises.)

    Like, will this be seen as Baseline Medical Treatment that any insurance program should be required to pay for? Or will it be seen as a boutique extravagance, like Lasik or cosmetic surgery, that you should just pay for out-of-pocket if plain old hearing aids aren’t good enough for you? (And will we end up, like those things, in the usual weird situation where the ear-regeneration therapy has a lower price tag than hearing aids but more people have hearing aids because insurance pays for them?)

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    • This is very similar to what they did to my knee, and the cost of that treatment was only $6200. A total knee replacement is almost 10 times as much.

      I am willing to bet, as we get better and harvesting stem cells and encouraging them to differentiate as desired, regenerative therapies will be the first thing tried on a cost basis alone, before we attempt more invasive procedures, or resort to hardware fixes.

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      • ” regenerative therapies will be the first thing tried on a cost basis alone…”

        Oh, regenerative therapies will absolutely be preferable in every way.

        The question is, who’s going to pay for them?

        My nightmare world is one where the administrators of the government-mandated health plan are required to go through a lengthy bureaucratic review in order to allow coverage of “novel, experimental therapies” and they don’t have the budget to do that (or the motivation, because in the end it’s not their knees) so they’ll only pay for the “established practice” full replacement. Meanwhile, rich people who can pay cash get regenerative therapy because they can pay for things in cash. And even though the full replacement is a major surgery and the regenerative therapy is an injection, they both cost the same, because the government-covered full replacement puts a floor on the cost of fixing your knee.

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        • That I’ll give you. As I mentioned in one of the posts about my knee, the procedure isn’t FDA approved because there hasn’t been a double blind study yet, and the FDA wants double blind data out to 7 years.

          Gonna be tough to find enough people willing to go through that .

          But, surprisingly enough, my insurance covered the cost of the procedure to harvest the cells, but not the cost of the stem cell treatment itself. So the $5200 surgery was covered, but the $1000 injection wasn’t. Although there is still the possibility it was a medical coding error. We’ll see.

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  4. I love these. At a time where our political systems appear unusually dysfunctional, it’s great to read about the incredible feats of science and engineering that humanity is capable of.

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    • No way I’m giving up a good steak anytime soon, but lab grown ground beef could entice me away, even if the price was still above actual cow. I rarely eat just plain ground beef, it’s almost always well seasoned or eaten with other foods.

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      • It could entice me away if it was more consistently good or at least more consistent than “actual” cow. Too much of the beef I’ve bought recently has been tough, tasteless, or both. And these aren’t the cheap cuts! I think the restaurants are siphoning off all the good beef, and the grocery stores (at least the ones in my area) are getting the beef from the “athletic” cattle.

        Alternative: buy a parcel of land outside of town and raise my own steers, and feed them marshmallows and beer so they’re maybe at least tender.

        I will say I can get grass-fed ground beef and that does seem to consistently be better than the average Kroger steak.

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        • What vat-grown is going to do is squeeze out the middle–the “you know, this isn’t really that good, but it’s less expensive than a restaurant” level of purchase.

          Because right now, “good but not great” is not a big price premium over the cheap stuff. But with vat-grown, the cheap stuff will be so cheap that the extra cost to get to “good but not great” is now a big jump in supplier cost, making it much less attractive to stock and sell. The good stuff doesn’t actually change in price, but now it has to work harder to justify paying for it–it’s now “triple my meat-purchase budget to get good stuff” rather than “twenty percent increase”.

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            • I’ve been jotting down notes of things I remember from my childhood for a project. One of them was about the butcher’s shop in the small town where my Grandparents Cain lived. In the back of the building was a vast freezer. For a modest fee — at least my grandmother said it was modest — you rented a wire-basket drawer to keep all the cuts from the quarter- or half-beef you bought.

              Where I live now there’s a thriving supply chain from ranches that do grass-fed beef, to small slaughter houses, to local butchers who will cut, package and quick-freeze anything up to a whole beef. No rental freezer space, though.

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        • Ya know, once upon a time I found some soy/vegetable protein ground beef that was actually pretty good, texture wise (taste was one of those sins proper seasoning handles well). And, of course, it immediately disappeared from store shelves. Everything I’ve found since has been as far removed from the taste and texture of actual meat as possible. Not that some of those options didn’t have charms all their own, but no one was going to confuse them with actual meat.

          I doubt actual animal muscle will be phased out in my lifetime, but the source of that muscle might change dramatically, because let’s face it, ranching is hard to do, and if anyone is paying attention to places like Texas, lots of that ranching land has value far and above cattle grazing.

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        • Hah, the left wing food restrictionists can’t even consistently take on a cup of sugary soda in their strongest redoubts. Vegetarians/Vegans are an even smaller constituency/movement; I don’t think meat has much to worry about.

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  5. Looking at the diabetes and anti-fat links, this makes me wonder exactly how much crap the “use *OUR* product” lobbies have screwed up and how many people have been harmed by following the directions given by “authorities”.

    Drives me nuts.

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