Tiny Submarines To Limit Cow Farts For the Environment

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago

You know what’s a good thing? Hallucinogenic mushrooms, which come from cow dung. You know what’s bad? Methane and other greenhouse gases that come from cows passing gas from both ends. The cow, which gives us such wonderful things as different kinds of meat to enjoy in frequent moderation, is an animal whose burp is worse than its poop. Well, it probably does fart during…But I digest. Digress.

Chris McSweeny works with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s Sustainable Agriculture Flagship in Brisbane, Australia. He and his research team tasked themselves with figuring out how to monitor, and eventually modify, a cow’s gaseous emissions from the inside. I’m assuming they watched Fantastic Voyage and Inner Space during their brainstorming, because their solution is incredibly similar, and far more realistic.

They developed a miniature, gas-sniffing submarine to insert into the cow’s stomach, coated with a special membrane to stave off the bile and other damaging conditions inside. A pair of wings pops out and keeps the submarine contained in the rumen, the chamber in a cow or sheep’s stomach where the bulk of the gas is produced. Planning for a weeks-long stay in there, the device will scan and measure the the gas concentration using infrared sensors.

Just one of these would be cool, but ultimately wouldn’t affect the bovine population at large. So McSweeney and Co. plan on inserting the device into entire herds at the same time, connecting them with a wireless network that sends info to off-site monitoring programs. Since this is just the information-gathering stage, the next step isn’t yet known. But the end goal is figuring out a way to guide and limit the amount of methane released by large groups of cows the world over, curbing the animals’ output of 26% of the world’s methane produced by human-related activities. U.S. cows account for 20% of the country’s methane emissions, at 5.5. million metric tons.

You can help this cause by not feeding your cows chili-cheeseburger pizza and beer. Research shows that pulling a cow’s finger does not damage the environment in any way, and is not an actual possibility, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins albums be damned.

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