Gone are the days of turning stones into spears. With the advent of new technologies, we've learned to develop tools that not only make living faster and easier every day, but also improve the future of humanity as a whole. Today's Chart of the Week draws from the MIT Technology Review, which features Bill Gates' predictions for the top 10 breakthrough inventions that will capture headlines in 2019. Companies would see measurable benefits, with just one breakthrough here garnering a 5% jump in productivity. Sanitation that doesn't require sewers would not only prevent exposure diseases but also help turn waste into useful products like fertilizer.
The first time someone pitched Genentech's senior leadership on a personalized cancer vaccine, it did not go well. "I thought there was going to be a riot," Ira Mellman, then Genentech's head of research oncology, recalls. From across the table, he watched the scientific review committee grimly shaking their heads as his team member and longtime collaborator Lélia Delamarre made her case. A vaccine will never work." But it took a long time to get there.
BP might not be the first source you go to for environmental news, but its annual energy review is highly regarded by climate watchers. And its 2018 message was stark: despite the angst over global warming, coal was responsible for 38% of the world's power in 2017--precisely the same level as when the first global climate treaty was signed 20 years ago. Worse still, greenhouse-gas emissions rose by 2.7% last year, the largest increase in seven years. Such stagnation has led many policymakers and environmental groups to conclude that we need more nuclear energy. Even United Nations researchers, not enthusiastic in the past, now say every plan to keep the planet's temperature rise under 1.5 C will rely on a substantial jump in nuclear energy.
Thought to have been Lord Krishna's favorite animal, the cow has achieved a uniquely sacred status in India. Their slaughter is prohibited through most of the country, beef consumption is largely outlawed as well and woe be the unlucky soul accused of breaking those taboos. We love them so much that we ate a whopping 25.668 billion pounds of beef in 2016, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. There are 93.5 million heads of cattle in this country, but thanks to emerging biofabrication technologies, they could soon be as safe from the slaughterhouse as the cows of Delhi. The issues commonly raised against modern cattle farming are not just the matter of the near genocidal numbers of bovines that are led to slaughter each year to feed America's need for red meat but that the cattle business in general is an environmentally-intensive industry.
In 2013, the world's first burger from a lab was cooked in butter and eaten at a glitzy press conference. The burger cost £215,000 ($330,000 at the time) to make, and despite all the media razzmatazz, the tasters were polite but not overly impressed. "Close to meat, but not that juicy," said one food critic. Still, that one burger, paid for by Google cofounder Sergey Brin, was the earliest use of a technique called cellular agriculture to make edible meat products from scratch--no dead animals required. Cellular agriculture, whose products are known as cultured or lab-grown meat, builds up muscle tissue from a handful of cells taken from an animal. These cells are then nurtured on a scaffold in a bioreactor and fed with a special nutrient broth.