WFB Sept 2016

Lab-burger

There is nothing in the world better than a good hamburger.

I prefer mine cooked just a little over medium-rare, with some lettuce, mayo, mustard, ketchup, fresh onion, a pickle slice and a sprinkling of black pepper.

But it’s not just about the condiments for me, a good burger has to have a nicely flavored base- namely the meat.

We’ve all eaten a hockey-puck that sat on the grill for too long, of a factory-molded disc that just doesn’t seem quite right.

But sometime in the near future, we may be eating hamburger that was grown in a lab.

This week, scientists in Europe held the first-ever taste test for such a burger; comprised of meat grown from cattle stem cells.

A team at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, led by Mike Post, used muscle cells from two cows that were grown in a nutrient solution, then linked together into a patty.

The cost for the one burger- a whopping $332,000.

Two “lucky” food tasters were offered the chance to sample the meat, and weren’t exactly overwhelmed by the taste. They did say that it was “close to beef,” and with a little tweaking (plus some ketchup) it could pass as real food. The problem, they say, was the meat was extremely lean, with no fat at all, and food experts agree that fat in a burger is what gives it the best flavor.

The extreme cost for one burger, and the taste, mean we won’t be eating lab-beef anytime soon, but it is getting closer.

It is a pretty significant achievement since food shortage could soon be a global problem. As the population continues to grow, and farm land gets turned into developments, it stretches our resources and it gets harder and harder to feed everybody.

Plus, there is the environmental aspect of the cattle industry. A 2006 report from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization states that the meat industry contributes 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and it is growing as countries like China are producing more meat.  That’s a lot of cow flatulence.

There is a lot of science going into creating food products from lab-grown materials. Beef is only the first step.

Soon, we may live in a science-fiction type world where when we want to make dinner, all we need to do is pour some protein glop into a machine and out pops a full-course meal.

Just think what that would do to all the cooking shows on television. We’d have no need to buy cookbooks, because all we would need to do is push a few buttons for anything we want.

If I am ever offered the chance to eat a lab-burger, I probably will take it. I would like to see what it tastes like. I’d like to get a head-start before we all end up eating it anyway.

But for now, I’ll stick to my good-ole’ farm raised beef on a bun.

It’s a Mad world

I was digging through an old and long-forgotten box of stuff the other day and stumbled across a collection of old magazines that I had saved for some inexplicable reason.

A good portion of the old periodicals were copies of old Mad magazines and a few National Lampoons thrown in for good measure.

While flipping through the magazines (all intents of cleaning gone for the rest of the day), I was reminded of how much I enjoyed them when I was a kid.

For a pre-teen back in the day, Mad was the height of counter culture and rebellion. This was before cable television and the internet, so other than talking smack about your friends and parents, this was the main source of subversive humor that thrilled us at the time.

In re-examining some of the collected books I had saved over the years, I still could recognize the genesis of my sense of humor. Sure, the jokes seem tame compared to what kids see every day now, but they were cutting edge in the 70’s and early 80’s.

As I grew older, I found myself drifting away from Alfred E. Newman and began looking for more “sophisticated” fare.

Of course, then, I found that National Lampoon was more up my alley. Now that magazine was subversive.

It was a magazine that you had to buy on the down-low. If your parents caught you with one, they would certainly confiscate it. They still seem relatively tame by today’s standards, but in my formative years, they were golden.

Forget the occasional nude drawing and occasional curse words, the writers and editors of the great college humor mag had no remorse about skewering anyone or anything with their satirical wit.

Not all the jokes were funny, or even understandable to a young teenager at the time, but you knew you were reading something that you shouldn’t be, and that made up for all the stuff you didn’t understand.

Unfortunately, National Lampoon ceased publication years ago, and their brand of humor has devolved into soft-core, soft-humor movies. Mad Magazine is still treading water, but it too has suffered the effects of time and competition from the internet. After picking up a copy recently for nostalgias sake, I found that much of the basic elements remained, but the core of the book had evolved to try and keep pace with modern society. To me, it hasn’t aged well at all.

But, it is funny how I can see where a lot of my humor developed from looking at these few scattered memories and worn out copies.

I learned how powerful parody can be, and a few “snappy answers to stupid questions.” I discovered that anything can be turned into a joke, and figured out how to look at things from a different perspective to find humor.

Most importantly, the main thing I discovered from the pages of these two great magazines is that you can’t take yourself too seriously.

If you do, you are just setting yourself up for someone else to make fun of.

Reflections 

15 years ago this week not only marks an infamous day in American history, it also represents a personal milestone for me as well.

September 11, 2001 was my first full day as an employee of the McCreary County Voice – one that I will never forget. On that fateful day I found myself a novice news reporter suddenly covering the most important story in recent American history. My first article was an interview with a local truck driver who was in New York at the time of the attacks and saw first-hand the devastation. What a first day.

That night, as I sat alone and watched the continuous news coverage, I jotted down some thoughts. Here is an excerpt from those musings, which I think still ring true today:

“Numb. No other word best describes what I am feeling right now. Like many Americans, I spent today watching news broadcasts and listening to the radio reports from Washington, D.C. and New York City as the horrible events of the day unfolded. The reality of this day has yet to fully sink in.

In the coming days and weeks, as the numbers and facts emerge, one thing will stand out: the strength and determination of the American People. We were bloodied but not beaten. Down but not out. Shaken, but our will is resolute. We will come out of this stronger, determined and whole. This act has ripped out a part of our National Being, and that wound will never fully heal.

But it is that wound that we will suffer with pride. For it is in the face of this, the greatest of tragedies, that the spirit of America and all it stands for will continue.

Our government must set forth on the task of calming our fears. It must set the tone for our healing. Already it is beginning this job. The President is back at the White House, Congress is at the Capitol, and the business of running the country will go on. That is the best thing that could come from this. Terrorists’ main goal is to disrupt and destroy the target nation’s ability to govern. President Bush and members of both Houses of Congress send a clear message to those who would do us harm: ‘We will NOT be intimidated or bullied into compromising our ideals.’

Today marked a turning point in the history of the United States and the world. Nothing will ever be the same again. It will take a long time for anyone to fully come to grips with the enormity of the events of this day and their aftermath.

I am confident that, like the mythological phoenix, we will rise from the ashes and carry on. We will never take anything like air travel and national security for granted again. Instead of turning our eyes inward, we will watch beyond our borders with new, penetrating eyes. We, and other nations like us, will strive even harder for peace and a world where something like this can never happen again.

For this I pray.

God Bless America.”

You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows 

Have you really ever thought about wind?

I mean, really thought about it?

Wind is an amazing phenomenon. Any science geek can tell you the scientific definition of wind is the horizontal movement of air caused by differences in air pressure due to uneven heating of the Earth. But that sounds so un-poetic.

What really is wind?

It is a mysterious force that can level buildings, make an airplane fly or keep a child’s kite in the air.

It is hard to measure since, unless there is some sort of pollution involved, you can’t see it. Weather vanes have been around for centuries and can tell you which way the wind is blowing. And special monitors can measure the strength of the wind, but those measurements are all subjective. They can only tell you how strong the wind is at that certain place.

Where does wind start? For that matter, where does it end? There must be some place that can be classified as the starting point for a wind gust. Does a gust just magically appear at point A and then, just as magically vanish at point B. Or does it gradually build up like rush-hour traffic and gently disperse over distance?

How wide is a wind gust? Can I be standing in a field and feel the wind on my face when someone 10 feet away from me not feel a thing? Is it stronger in the middle of the gust, or does it vary throughout?

I figure as wind passes objects, such as trees and buildings, it looses a little bit of its overall power. But taking this thought experiment a little further, it could also speed it up.

Using the Bernoulli Principal, the air moving around an object has to increase speed to catch up to the air not affected by the object. Wind moving through a forest or city will have lots of these fast moving currents. True, the energy will diminish, but the speed will pick up.

Try a little experiment. Grab a cotton ball or tissue and hold it at arms length. Now blow. You can see it flicker and wave as your breath passes by. Now put the object on the other side of the room and try again. Nothing, right?

That shows how much energy is required to make wind.

Even if you had a room full of people trying to blow that tissue around, it would leave most of them breathless before you produced any significant movement.

For hundreds of years mankind has been trying to harness the power of wind. Picture the windmills that dot the countryside in Holland. The islands of Hawaii use wind to collect fresh drinking water from the ocean. And there are scientists striving to use the power of wind as an efficient alternative energy source.

But I prefer to leave that sort of thing to the professionals.

Myself, I prefer to sit in the dandelion patch on a blustery day and watch the seed float in the wind.

 


 

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