Each week Nikolas Badminton, Futurist Speaker, summarizes the top-5 future looking developments and news items that I find to be inspiring, interesting, concerning, or downright strange. Each day he reads through dozens of blogs and news websites to find those things that we should be aware of.
In Future Trends – RogueNASA Fights Back we look at NASA going rogue, holograms and nanotech, the ethics of organoids, a coffee renaissance, and how renewable energy jobs are booming in the United States.
Rogue Nasa account fights Trump on climate change
Twitter accounts – some set up by people claiming to work for US government agencies – have sprung up to “resist” President Trump on climate science.
Borrowing the names of organisations like Nasa and the Environmental Protection Agency they are directly attacking the president.
Mr Trump has called climate change a hoax.
The @RogueNASA account says it is the “unofficial ‘Resistance’ team of NASA”.
“Not an official NASA account. Not managed by gov’t employees. Come for the facts, stay for the snark,” the account declares.
Read more at BBC
A Nanotech Breakthrough Could Generate True Holograms
For several decades, optical engineers have been chasing this vision — a genuinely freestanding hologram that can be viewed like a regular object from any direction. No one’s been able to quite nail it yet, although some Korean scientists came intriguingly close just last year.
Now comes word from Australia that technicians have developed a nanoscale technology which approaches the problem from a whole new direction.
Researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) recently disclosed details on their system that projects light through tiny “nanopillars,” transparent rods 500 times thinner than a human hair. The device can’t project freestanding holograms yet, but the underlying mathematics suggest the breakthrough isn’t far off.
Read more at Seeker
The Ethics of Organoids: Scientists Weigh in on New Mini-Organs
Growing organs in the lab is an enduring sci-fi trope, but as stem cell technology brings it ever closer to reality, scientists are beginning to contemplate the ethics governing disembodied human tissue.
So-called organoids have now been created from gut, kidney, pancreas, liver and even brain tissue. Growing these mini-organs has been made possible by advances in stem cell technology and the development of 3D support matrices that allow cells to develop just like they would in vivo.
Unlike simple tissue cultures, they exhibit important structural and functional properties of organs, and many believe they could dramatically accelerate research into human development and disease.
For developmental biologists, these structures offer unprecedented insight into how cells self-organize to become organs. For those developing drugs, they provide a far more nuanced understanding of how the human body will react to certain compounds and could potentially reduce the need for research on animals or risky early trials on human volunteers.
Organoids grown from a patient’s stem cells could be used to repair damaged organs or personalize their treatment by testing how they react to different drugs. Earlier this year, a Dutch university spin-out partnered with an insurance company to launch a €3 million trial into using organoids to determine patients’ responses to new cystic fibrosis drugs.
Read more at Singularity Hub
A Coffee Renaissance Is Brewing, and It’s All Thanks to Genetics
COFFEE MAY BE precious to you, or indeed a necessity for your daily functioning, but really it’s just information. Legions of genes code for the aroma when you roast and brew the beans, for the flavor when you drink, and for the buzz that gives you the motivation to not just drive straight past the office every morning.
Genes are the future of coffee. Not nitro cold brewing or beans pooped out by civets, but genes. And coffee’s gene-fueled future just drew nearer, now that scientists have sequenced the genome of the Coffea arabica coffee plant—the species that makes up the vast majority of global production—and made the data public. That means the world is in for a coffee renaissance, as breeders use the information to develop new plant varieties—think new flavors and better resistance to cold and disease. That means more coffee grown in more places, a big deal as global warming throws local climates into chaos.
So researchers at UC Davis (full disclosure: my alma mater—also, I prefer tea to coffee) took the leaves of the geisha plant and ground them up. “We use some detergents and a few chemicals like ethanol, and the key is to extract the DNA as intact as possible,” says plant breeder Allen Van Deynze, director of the university’s Seed Biotechnology Center. “The more intact the DNA, the better quality genome sequence that we get.” After running the DNA through a sequencer, the scientists were able to tease out the genome in pieces—in total 90 percent of over a billion base pairs—which is a third that of the human genome.
Read more at WIRED
Renewable Energy Is Creating Jobs 12 Times Faster Than the Rest of the Economy
The study, published by the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Climate Corps program, says that solar and wind jobs have grown at rates of about 20% annually in recent years, and sustainability now collectively represents four to four and a half million jobs in the U.S., up from 3.4 million in 2011.
The renewable energy sector has seen rapid growth over recent years, driven largely by significant reductions in manufacturing and installation costs. Building developers and owners have been fueled by state and local building efficiency policies and incentives, the report explains.
Read more at FORTUNE
Nikolas Badminton is a world-respected futurist speaker that researches, speaks, and writes about the future of work, how technology is affecting the workplace, how workers are adapting, the sharing economy, and how the world is evolving. He appears at conferences in Canada, USA, UK, and Europe. Email him to book him for your radio, TV show, or conference.