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Author Topic: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc  (Read 45747 times)

Kagus

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1635 on: April 16, 2018, 01:15:31 pm »

No, I'm pretty sure archaeologists fight Nazis and dodge traps while stealing artifacts. I watched a documentary on it once.

Max™

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1636 on: April 16, 2018, 03:50:22 pm »

Uh, I'm pretty sure that's cosmonauts.
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Kagus

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1637 on: April 17, 2018, 12:21:50 pm »

So, back on topic (although really, both cosmonauts and batteries are tech-related...), this looks pretty swanky.

Scientists try to observe an enzyme's ability to decompose plastics, and they accidentally end up making it really effective at eating PET plastics. And they're "confident" that they can make it go even faster (presumably by painting it red).

So, all depending on how much they manage to mobilize this thing... That's a pretty big deal. No mention of the enzyme's waste products, so I don't exactly know what it turns the eaten plastics into. But, eeeeey, that's not so important now is it?

Starver

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1638 on: April 17, 2018, 12:35:47 pm »

Until the day dawns when the 'improved' version starts to attack plastic things we don't yet want recycled, of course. Much of our rust-proofing and other assumed-protective coatings and whole structural components might end up going all gooey and dripping/disolving/evaporating away. Then the Age Of Plastic ends (or at least suffers mass extinctions in entire categories of polymer-products) and the holocene layer just gets a renewed footprint of steel and glass and concrete in it, no more troublesome microfibers but plenty of microbial matting and monomer goos wherever the plastics previously accumulated (dumped or deliberately installed).
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smjjames

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1639 on: April 17, 2018, 12:46:23 pm »

I suppose bacteria which can metabolize plastics might have evolved on their own given enough time. They seem to also be talking about using the enzyme itself rather than the bacteria directly.

While your scenario sounds overly apocalyptic, it's a valid concern for any GMO.
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Trekkin

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1640 on: April 17, 2018, 12:58:06 pm »

It's a valid concern for any organism, full stop.

Presumably there were similar conversations in the early Neolithic about the danger these new and improved aurochsen would pose to crops intended for human consumption.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2018, 12:59:43 pm by Trekkin »
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Kagus

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1641 on: April 17, 2018, 12:59:05 pm »

The article mentions that the research was conducted on an enzyme found in the naturally-occurring bacterium discovered in Japan in 2016, and that they're considering other bacterial hosts to make the decomposition process more effective.

smjjames

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1642 on: April 17, 2018, 01:08:12 pm »

It's a valid concern for any organism, full stop.

Presumably there were similar conversations in the early Neolithic about the danger these new and improved aurochsen would pose to crops intended for human consumption.

You mean late neolithic around the agricultural revolution.
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Starver

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1643 on: April 17, 2018, 01:33:30 pm »

i.e. it has already started to evolve (without human intervention - the act of blindly accumulating plastic waste feedstock aside, which we didn't actually do in the interests of aiding evolution) and having accidentally given the process a forward nudge now we(/they) are going to deliberately nudge it even further.

(To be honest, I have for a long time assumed that almost all anthropogenic products have started to aquire 'natural' predatory organisms that thrive on them, rather than merely tolerate their otherwise abiological presence. Polymer-eating isn't even a new thing, nor even the only thing that lives on one bit or other of our manufacturing footprint.)

And I'm not really preaching apocalypse, just that much as VideoDiscs were touted as the way to go (close, but no cigar!) before but are a past consumer experiment that failed, it's possible that many plastic things (including VideoDiscs, and by extension CDs and DVDs and possibly even the casings of USB sticks/chip and card slots on mobos/vibration-insulating spacers in servers/low-friction pins in rack hinges, all the little things that could 'zeerust' our current technology without extensive monitoring, maintenance and suitable replacement) start to become prey to the latest development intended to 'only' deal with otherwise unconsidered and inconsiderately dumped plastics 'in the wild'. See also the cane toad.

Maybe we can keep this Pandora's box sufficiently closed. Maybe we can develop an anti-(anti-plastic-)bacterial spray to preserve things we want to keep, like we have varnished, tarred or creosoted wooden things against the ravages of the various lignaphagic organisms out there. I'm just looking a bit beyond, in any case.


(It doesn't help that anything that starts "Scientists accidentally..." is pretty much fated to become a disaster movie, if it hasn't already presceiently been one. :P)
« Last Edit: April 17, 2018, 01:37:52 pm by Starver »
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Trekkin

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1644 on: April 17, 2018, 02:39:23 pm »

(It doesn't help that anything that starts "Scientists accidentally..." is pretty much fated to become a disaster movie, if it hasn't already presceiently been one. :P)

This wasn't an accident, though -- at least not as is normally understood. This was a mutational screen that happened to return a relative activity of 1.2 rather than <1 for a putative critical mutation set, which happens literally all the time; it's more significant in this case because this isn't chemistry the wider scientific community is wholly used to manipulating enzymatically, but it's hardly revolutionary. So the mutant breaks down PET into terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol 20% faster than wild type. Cool, but hardly a Pandora's box yet.

When looking a bit beyond, it's most helpful to know what you're looking at, no?
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Kagus

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1645 on: April 17, 2018, 03:02:19 pm »

Well, I imagine that lots of fun things can happen when you shine a light 10 billion times brighter than the sun at something.

I feel like the person who invented that has had trouble finding their keys in a dingy drawer one too many times.

Max™

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1646 on: April 17, 2018, 08:20:41 pm »

I mean, the sun only peaks at a kilojoule per square meter per second on a clear day at zenith, and we're talking about what, a few square microns of target getting zapped for under a nanosecond?
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Starver

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1647 on: April 17, 2018, 08:24:11 pm »

Not sure if serious...
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Max™

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1648 on: April 17, 2018, 08:25:39 pm »

Brightness in a sustained source and brightness instantaneously are very different things.
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Engraved here is a rendition of an image of the Dwarf Fortress learning curve. All craftsdwarfship is of the highest quality. It depicts an obsidian overhang which menaces with spikes of obsidian and tears. Carved on the overhang is an image of Toady One and the players. The players are curled up in a fetal position. Toady One is laughing. The players are burning.
The VectorCurses+1 tileset strikes the square set and the severed part sails off in an arc!

Starver

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Re: Tech News. Automation, Engineering, Environment Etc
« Reply #1649 on: April 17, 2018, 08:52:27 pm »

As are energy output of the Sun as observed on the surface of Earth, and the original energy exuding from a similarly-sized area of surface before the 93 million miles of transit smooshes together a whole hemisphere but (mostly) inverse-squares itself out thinly over the heavens with only a minute amount ever getting into our skies, clear or otherwise.

(I seem to have completely missed that we're not talking, the way I first read it, about someone shining something brighter than the Sun at the Sun (which, after 150Gm of travel, probably wouldn't bother it in the slightest). I think that error arose because it looks like someone thought that it was the shining of the DLS at the enzyme that changed it, rather than just the method to take a snapshot of the various versions of enzymes that had or had not been corrupted with accidental improvements through more traditional "mess with it a bit, see what it does" method.)
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