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New Bacteria Could Make You Poop Rainbows

In 2009, students at Cambridge University genetically engineered E. coli bacteria, adding DNA sequences in order to create colors visible to the naked eye (standard E. coli does not have a pigment). The students called this new strain E. chromi, and it has limited uses today, primarily related to detecting pollution or other chemicals -- if the bacteria detects a chemical, it changes color.

That's all well and good, but how do we take this and go nuts with it, creating a Terminator-like dystopian horrorscape? I'm so glad you asked. In the short film below (which is largely fictional), an example is given in which an advanced form of this bacteria could be ingested by humans, and it could then identify illnesses within the GI tract...which you'd learn about after pooping a rainbow of bacteria-laden diagnostic material. (Oh, were you eating? I should have warned you.)

I should emphasize: this is a speculative art project based on some limited real-world science. But who among us does not dream of a poop-rainbow-filled tomorrow? I, for one, welcome our new bacterial overlords.

(Via Waxy.) See also: io9 on Daisy Ginsberg, one of the artists behind this project.

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History
The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

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science
Why Are Glaciers Blue?
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The bright azure blue sported by many glaciers is one of nature's most stunning hues. But how does it happen, when the snow we see is usually white? As Joe Hanson of It's Okay to Be Smart explains in the video below, the snow and ice we see mostly looks white, cloudy, or clear because all of the visible light striking its surface is reflected back to us. But glaciers have a totally different structure—their many layers of tightly compressed snow means light has to travel much further, and is scattered many times throughout the depths. As the light bounces around, the light at the red and yellow end of the spectrum gets absorbed thanks to the vibrations of the water molecules inside the ice, leaving only blue and green light behind. For the details of exactly why that happens, check out Hanson's trip to Alaska's beautiful (and endangered) Mendenhall Glacier below.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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