Search results for: plants


Growing Plants On Mars May Be A Realistic Possibility

mars plantsWork is underway to figure out methods of growing produce in space, which is especially vital for eventual Mars colonists. Space food leaves a lot to be desired, so scientists are working on getting more variety into astronauts’ diets. They’re also working on ways to create sustainable agricultural practices, given that resupplying Earthly goods will bend, if not break, the budget. But that will require astronauts growing their own food, which raises the question of how suitable an environment is Mars (or the moon) is for growing plants. According to a study recently published in PLoS One, both Mars and the moon may be much better suited for agriculture than previously thought.

Dutch researchers planted fourteen different species of plants in soil similar in composition to that on Mars and the moon—the same soil NASA uses for simulations. The control group in the study used Earth soil from an area without many nutrients. Scientists planted mustard, tomatoes, rye, carrots, wheat, and cress into 840 different pots—20 replicas of each kind of plant species in each of the three types of soil. From there, all the subjects were kept under the same greenhouse conditions with 16 hours of light each day and temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers let them grow for 50 days.

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DARPA Developing Brain Implants To Treat PTSD

dbsHey, look! It’s a DARPA program that isn’t designed to create the ultimate super-soldier! Actually, that’s debatable. Regardless, here’s a DARPA initiative that theoretically could benefit folks who aren’t embroiled in combat: developing brain implants for treating mental conditions such as PTSD.

The effort leverages recent research and success in deep brain stimulation, which has been shown to successfully treat Parkinson’s, among other conditions. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) involves implanting electrodes that deliver electrical impulses to affected areas of the brain. For Parkinson’s patients, a neurostimulator, which is similar to a pacemaker but is usually near the patient’s collarbone, regulates the impulses sent by the electrodes. DARPA’s approach would be similar in terms of the use of electrodes, but it also seeks to implant a chip, rather than a neurostimulator, to send and monitor the resulting signals and data to and from the brain and computers used by researchers.

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UK Dental Lab Will 3D Print Spinal Implants

3d printed spinal implantAttenborough Dental, a UK-based digital dental laboratory that has been in the business for over 100 years, will soon be expanding its services to include 3D-printed spinal implants.

The dental lab, one of the largest in Europe, with 20 offices around the globe, already uses 3D printing for dentistry, but recognize the benefits available by incorporating the technology into orthopedics. They’ll start with custom-printed spinal implants and move on to 3D-printed knees and hips if all goes well.

Conventional spinal implants are “one size fits all,” which produces imperfect results, as patients’ bodies have to try and adapt to the implant rather than the other way around. Attenborough Dental’s plan is to conduct 3D scans of patients to obtain a clear image of the damage sustained to the spine. Then they’ll merge an implant into the scan and produce a 3D model. They have both a 3D-scanning center and a 3D-printing and manufacturing center in their Nottingham location, as well as titanium, zirconia, and other ceramics for printing. Finally, they’ll print the customized implant for the patient. Within the next 18 months, Attenborough Dental plans to try this process with 24 patients.

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Bacteria Turns Plants Into Zombies

witches' broom

Witches’ broom are indications of parasites

We all know how to turn people into zombies: just give them boring, 9-5 jobs (or worse, 8-6, 7-7, etc) that don’t require them to use their brains at all and thus turn them into the shuffling, vacant-eyed folks that appear in Shaun of the Dead even before the undead start snacking on them. Animals can become zombies too, when under the control of bodysnatching parasites. Now, scientists have learned that bacteria can work their zombie mojo on plants, too.

A team of scientists from Norwich, UK’s John Innes Centre published research in PLOS Biology that describes how phytoplasmas, parasitic bacteria that wreak havoc on the likes of sugarcane and coconut, take over plants and make them do all sorts of things they otherwise wouldn’t. Flowers become shoots, petals change color, and the plant sends up the telltale “witches’ broom” shoots. As the parasite takes hold, the host becomes incapable of reproducing. Insects descend on these new shoots, transmitting the bacteria to make new zombies. They don’t even have to bite anything. The report points out that for all intents and purposes, the plant is dead, living on bacterial life support.

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Make Music From Your Houseplants

MIDI sproutI’m obsessed with plants. My old roommate used to complain that our house looked like a jungle, but I never understood how one could have too many beautiful, green, living things in the house. It’s a good thing I didn’t know then that there’s a way to make music from houseplants — my roommate would have probably turned me and my leafy friends out onto the street.

It’s never surprised me to hear that music and plants have a connection. According to Dorothy Retallack’s book The Sound of Music and Plants, three hours of music a day leads to healthier-than-normal plants, while eight hours a day can kill them. Apparently, plants like classical music more than heavy metal, and will even grow toward the sounds. Basically, plants can “hear,” or more likely, can pick up the sound waves and vibrations emitted by music. But plants can provide sound too, via biofeedback.

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NASA Will Try To Grow Plants On The Moon In 2015

plants on the moonIn President Obama’s 2010 speech on the country’s space program, he undid the previous administration’s plan to send American astronauts back to the moon: “But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before. Buzz has been there. There’s a lot more of space to explore, and a lot more to learn when we do.” My favorite comedy show of all time, Mr. Show (starring Bob Odenkirk and David Cross) has a sketch about blowing up the moon, in which a former Apollo astronaut says, “I walked on the moon. I did a push-up, I ate an egg on it… What else can you do with it?” Well, NASA has an answer to that question — it intends to grow plants on the moon.

The Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team, comprised of NASA scientists, as well as contractors, volunteers, and students, will try to grow a couple of plants such as basil, sunflowers, and turnips in specially constructed cylindrical aluminum planters that contain sensors, cameras, and other equipment that will broadcast images of the plants as the grow (or don’t grow). The plant habitats are intended to be self-sufficient, able to monitor and regular temperature, moisture, and their own power supply.

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