Video of the day

Over at Wonkblog, they put together a post of great spelling bee moments.  This one is awesome:

Test tube burger

So, a while back I wrote about the (hopeful) future of “meat” that is actually engineered from vegetable protein but tastes and feels like the real thing.  That would be an incredibly huge boon for a sustainable environment.  Meat production is incredibly inefficient as compared to plant production (a lot of resources go into simply keeping a cow, pig, etc., alive).  Not to mention, the very questionable morality of how we treat factory farm raised animals.  A couple weeks ago the Times ran a story on the efforts to create synthetic meat in a test tube, i.e., culturing real animal cells and “growing” meat in a lab.  Turns out, it’s really, really hard:

The hamburger, assembled from tiny bits of beef muscle tissue grown in a laboratory and to be cooked and eaten at an event in London, perhaps in a few weeks, is meant to show the world — including potential sources of research funds — that so-called in vitro meat, or cultured meat, is a reality.

“Let’s make a proof of concept, and change the discussion from ‘this is never going to work’ to, ‘well, we actually showed that it works, but now we need to get funding and work on it,’ “ Dr. Post said in an interview last fall in his office at Maastricht University…

The idea of creating meat in a laboratory — actual animal tissue, not a substitute made from soybeans or other protein sources — has been around for decades. The arguments in favor of it are many, covering both animal welfare and environmental issues…

Yet growing meat in the laboratory has proved difficult and devilishly expensive. Dr. Post, who knows as much about the subject as anybody, has repeatedly postponed the hamburger cook-off, which was originally expected to take place in November.

His burger consists of about 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue. Dr. Post, who has conducted some informal taste tests, said that even without any fat, the tissue “tastes reasonably good.” For the London event he plans to add only salt and pepper.

But the meat is produced with materials — including fetal calf serum, used as a medium in which to grow the cells — that eventually would have to be replaced by similar materials of non-animal origin. And the burger was created at phenomenal cost — 250,000 euros, or about $325,000, provided by a donor who so far has remained anonymous. Large-scale manufacturing of cultured meat that could sit side by side with conventional meat in a supermarket and compete with it in price is at the very least a long way off.

Intriguing.  And though it is clearly absurdly expensive right now, it’s not hard to imagine a future where this has actually become affordable.  That said, based on what I’ve read about fake meat made from vegetable material versus “cultured meat” made from real animal cells, I’m putting my money on the former.  Either way, I would love it if my grandkids grow up eating great tasting burgers made from vegetable protein or animal protein grown in a lab.  Either way, that’s a huge advance for the environment and animal welfare.

Photo of the day

My wife shared this on FB.  Love it (story behind it here):

Greatest Wedding Photo In the History of the World

Photograph by Quinn Miller Photo + Design.

NRA = gun manufacturers lobby

I’ve written before that the easiest way to assess whether the NRA will be for or against something is quite simply will it lead to more or fewer guns being sold.  That’s it.  I’m not aware of a single policy the NRA supports that might actually result in the reduction of guns sold.  Though they don’t technically represent gun manufacturers, it is pretty clear to see that is where their primary interests lies.  Especially when you consider that even a majority of NRA members support expanding background checks on gun sales.   Thus, it was sad, but not at all surprising to read this NYT piece on just how venal most of the gun manufacturers are:

The Glock executive testified that he would keep doing business with a gun dealer who had been indicted on a charge of violating firearms laws because “This is still America” and “You’re still innocent until proven guilty.”

The president of Sturm, Ruger was not interested in knowing how often the police traced guns back to the company’s distributors, saying it “wouldn’t show us anything.”

And a top executive for Taurus International said his company made no attempt to learn if dealers who sell its products were involved in gun trafficking on the black market. “I don’t even know what a gun trafficker is,” he said…

The [gun] executives claimed not to know if their guns had ever been used in a crime. They eschewed voluntary measures to lessen the risk of them falling into the wrong hands. And they denied that common danger signs — like a single person buying many guns at once or numerous “crime guns” that are traced to the same dealer — necessarily meant anything at all.

Charles Brown’s company, MKS Supply, is the sole distributor of an inexpensive brand of gun that frequently turned up in criminal investigations. He said he never examined the trace requests that MKS received from federal agents to learn which of his dealers sold the most crime guns. This lack of interest was echoed by Charles Guevremont, the president of the gun manufacturer Browning, who testified that his company would have no reason to review the practices of a dealer who was the subject of numerous trace requests.

The article continues to discuss a series of lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

The lawsuits were bolstered, however, by testimony from several former industry insiders. The most prominent was Robert Ricker, a former lawyer for the National Rifle Association and executive director of the American Shooting Sports Council, the main gun industry trade association before it was disbanded.

Leaders in the industry have consistently resisted taking constructive voluntary action to prevent firearms from ending up in the illegal gun market and have sought to silence others within the industry who have advocated reform,” Mr. Ricker wrote in a 2003 affidavit on behalf of the City of San Diego.

Mr. Ricker detailed the backlash from the N.R.A. and trade groups against anyone who pressed for changes to industry practices. Because of his calls for reform, Mr. Ricker, who died of cancer in 2009, said he was forced to resign as the head of the trade group.

Another insider, Robert Hass, a former Smith & Wesson executive, testified that “the nature of the product demands that its distribution be handled in such a way as to minimize illegal and unintended use.” And yet, he said in an affidavit, “the industry’s position has consistently been to take no independent action to ensure responsible distribution practices.” When Smith & Wesson voluntarily adopted a set of safeguards, including requirements that its dealers limit multiple sales of firearms, it was ostracized and boycotted, forcing it to abandon the changes.

Now, obviously, there’s only so much blame you can place on the actual gun manufacturers as compared to those who shoot the gun.  That said, they clearly make an extremely dangerous product and seem to have no interest whatsoever in seeing to it that the product is less dangerous.  This is a completely amoral industry as is their semi-official shills, the NRA.  Very, very sad and telling what happened when Smith & Wesson was actually ostracisted for trying to operate as a responsible company manufacturing a dangerous product.

%d bloggers like this: