Tech Tuesday 7/18/17 – Hagfish Edition

Oscar Gordon

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget.

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36 Responses

  1. Kolohe says:

    Tr2 – headline

    Volvo Cars to go all electric

    In the press release

    Volvo Cars will introduce a portfolio of electrified cars across its model range, embracing fully electric cars, plug in hybrid cars and mild hybrid cars.

    (em added)


  2. veronica d says:

    Whoever wrote that hagfish faq is a comedic genius.Report

  3. Michael Cain says:

    Bio4: The working heart isn’t 3D printed. A model is 3D printed, and the actual heart produced by a conventional lost-wax casting process.

    Is it just me, or is the frequency of errors getting past the editing processes increasing? The first three or four of these stories that I pulled up all had small but obvious errors.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Sorry, that is on me. Errors are usually the result of stories I find as the deadline approaches, and they get a skim instead of a full read. I’ll get better about making sure the blurb is either accurate, or intentionally woefully incorrect.Report

      • Not a big deal. One of the first applications for 3D printing has been faster, easier creation of complex molds for cases where you need either many identical copies, or things made from materials not suited to 3D printers.

        I’ve been considering getting a small 3D printer for hobby purposes. So far I’ve been put off by literature that shows, for example, a small plastic enclosure with a note like “Printing time, 6.4 hours.”Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:


      OK, I just re-read that article, & I was not entirely wrong. The heart is 3D-printed, with a lost wax printer.

      If you want to print something out of a material that has a long set time (like silicone), you print it with a printer with two nozzles, one prints in silicone, the other with wax. The wax nozzle prints out a mold, and the silicone nozzle fills in the silicone. The wax holds it’s shape so the silicone can cure. Then, after the silicone cures, you melt the wax.

      At least, I think that is what they are talking about, it’s hard to tell, because you can also just print the heart in wax, build a plaster mold around it, then cast with silicone in a traditional lost wax process.

      But I will still be more careful.Report

  4. Burt Likko says:

    The photographer makes the hagfish’s mouth look like some kind of therapeutic shower head.

    …Now you can’t unsee it, and will have to try hard to distract yourself from thinking about a massive hagfish hanging over your head the next time you groom yourself. You’re welcome.Report

  5. fillyjonk says:

    Enrg2: Holy crap, so fire ants might be good for something after all? (Formic acid is part of their sting)Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    The soft artificial heart story includes this line:

    The reasoning why nature should be used as a model is clear. Currently used blood pumps have many disadvantages: their mechanical parts are susceptible to complications while the patient lacks a physiological pulse, which is assumed to have some consequences for the patient.

    I know that I’ve heard of new artificial hearts that just constantly circulate blood without the thumpthump (remember this story?) but I would like to know more about the consequences for the patients that live pulselessly.

    And then I read *THIS* line:

    They proved that the soft artificial heart fundamentally works and moves in a similar way to a human heart. However, it still has one problem: it currently lasts for about only 3,000 beats, which corresponds to a lifetime of half to three quarters of an hour. After that, the material can no longer withstand the strain.

    Now I’d really, really like to know more about the assumed consequences for the patient.Report

  7. Lyle says:

    Re Env1, its not really a surprise that such oil eating bacteria exist. After all in the gulf there are numerous natural oil seeps and for bacteria these provide good feeding. I suspect that other areas that have oil seeps tend to also have bacteria that eat the results of the seeps. So one metric for allowing drilling might be are there natural seeps in the ocean floor in the area to be drilled, because then clean up bacteria likley exist locally. There is still a lot of marine biology that is unknown, after all until recently the life around deep hot vents that lives off sulfur was unknown. For the bitumen it may be that the time constant is longer but since there are bitumen seeps I suspect that bacteria exist to eat them to.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Lyle says:

      Really good oil-eating bacteria have been created in the past using the standard selective breeding techniques. Getting permission to distribute them has been difficult in many jurisdictions — no one wants to be responsible for introducing them and having a rogue mutation turn them into diesel- or gasoline-gobbling critters.

      Many years ago, I recall someone breeding bacteria that would, slowly but steadily, eat petroleum-based plastics, with the entirely good intent of cleaning up landfills. I heard about it because I worked in telecom at the time, and the horror story that killed the idea was “What happens if they get loose and start eating the insulation on the wire pairs in the telephone company’s cables?”

      It’s not an uncommon meme in science fiction. IIRC, the collapse of technology in Ringworld was due to an engineered bacterium that ate the room-temperature superconductors everything depended on.Report

      • Lyle in reply to Michael Cain says:

        However the post on the oil suggests that left to its own devices evolution can produce similar organisms to those that are selectively bred if the ecological niche is large enough. In particular if we want to look for bacteria it seems that cold seeps of petroleum are a good place to start: The bacteria in question are chemosynthetic.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Michael Cain says:

        And then they put peanut oil in the optical cables, and the squirrels started eating them.
        National Security issue that.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to Kimmi says:

          Squirrels (also ground squirrels, prairie dogs, etc) will chew on all sorts of cables — the outer jacket is a nice consistency for them to chew on to wear their incisors down at the proper rate. Bell Labs used to have a couple of researchers who looked for compounds with three properties: (1) squirrels hated the taste, (2) it didn’t kill the squirrels, and (3) it didn’t compromise the strength of the jacket when mixed into the plastic.Report

      • Dark Matter in reply to Michael Cain says:

        the collapse of technology in Ringworld was due to an engineered bacterium that ate the room-temperature superconductors everything depended on.

        “Engineered” by aliens for the express purpose of causing the collapse of civilization.Report

  8. Oscar Gordon says:

    Of all the links, there are two that I think are pretty significant in the immediate, mat1 & mat3.

    Mat1 because a concrete that can not only resist seawater, but actually gets stronger through exposure, could potentially open up our ability to exploit coastal regions, and especially shallow water regions.

    Mat3 for a number of reasons, but primarily because of the ease of production with aerogels (which are also easy to produce). Sure, it’s not the strongest silk, but it’s as strong as other synthetic silks, much cheaper to produce, and I would not be surprised if the next step was to combine the aerogels with the proteins that make spider silk crazy strong & see if the proteins will self assemble & entangle as desired.

    The benefits of super strong, easy to produce textiles are legion. This could be huge.Report

    • J_A in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


      I’m surprised at the surprise, because my understanding of how the Romans had built the Port of Ostia in Imperial times (which is nothing like a natural port, and it was rubish in winter, jeopardizing food supplies to Rome) involved loading galleys with concrete pre-mix, and then sinking those, the mix hardening into concrete in the sea water, to act as foundation for breakwaters.

      Hence, I thought this was old history. I guess what has been (re)discovered is the actual mix, and not the concept.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to J_A says:

        It wasn’t the fact that the Romans knew that concrete will cure underwater. That is common knowledge (for those who don’t know – concrete hardens by way of chemical reaction – as long as you can prevent the concrete from flowing away, it will harden underwater). The thing that had scientists stumped was the fact that the concrete formulation that the Romans used got stronger the longer it sat under seawater, whereas the concrete we use weakens as it is exposed to seawater.

        Now they think they have the ingredients list for Roman marine concrete, and it’s just a matter of playing with the ratios of the ingredients.Report