My spinach is sending emails

Plant-based communication

Hello and welcome to The Edge, the newsletter that brings you groundbreaking stories from the frontiers of technology and science.

We’ve got some great stories for you today including tech-savvy spinach, bulletproof Russian combat suits and SpaceX’ latest booster. As always, we’ve added extra stories under each article should you find yourself in a curious state of mind. 

Today in history

What happened on February 6th in the past?

  • February 6th, 1956 - The first patent for an integrated circuit is obtained by Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments.

  • February 6th, 1998 - Washington National Airport has its name changed to Ronald Reagan Airport.

  • February 6th, 2018 - Falcon Heavy, SpaceX’s super heavy launch vehicle, makes its maiden flight.


SpaceX Super Heavy booster progress

Taking shape nicely. Image credit: Jack Beyer

New Photos Show Half-Finished SpaceX Super Heavy Booster

We might soon see the first SpaceX Super Heavy rocket booster prototype if these new drone shots are anything to go by (see above). The shots of the booster, snapped at the SpaceX Boca Chica testing facility, show the booster, which is half done according to Teslarati.

The colossal 70-metre booster is designed to transport SpaceX’ Starship spacecraft into orbit. When put together, the booster and Starship will stand 30 metres taller than the Statue of Liberty, coming in at a whopping 121 metres.

The finished booster will contain around 30 Raptor engines, equivalent to approximately ten times the thrust of a Falcon 9 rocket. Engines roaring at full capacity, the booster will be the most powerful ever made.

Everything you need to know about Starship.

Quick science

Other incredible stories from the world of science and technology.

Nature and technology

More inbox clutter, this time from spinach

Healthy, tasty and now, in your inbox. Image credit: Louis Hansel

Scientists create spinach plants which can send emails when they detect explosives

In one of the wildest mergers of technology and nature we’ve ever heard of, MIT scientists have engineered spinach plants that can send them email. Sort of.

The spinach plants don’t have a lot to say; instead, it shares only important news. One such example includes bomb detection alerts made by the carbon nanotubes built into its leaves. MIT chemical engineer and project leader Michael Strano said about the experiment that it’s a “…novel demonstration of how we have overcome the plant/human communication barrier.”

The MacGyver’d spinach could be used to detect climate change signs and has been used to detect pollutants in the past. To achieve these things, the spinach makes the carbon nanotubes glow when exposed to a given chemical. Cameras observing the change then send an email alert to the researchers.

Spinach is very good at detecting chemicals in soil, air and groundwater so using spinach plants to this end is quicker and easier than building a machine for the same purpose.

Why spinach is so good for you.

Video of the week

“How Many People Did Nuclear Energy Kill? Nuclear Death Toll”

Nuclear energy gets a bad rap but is this reputation justifiable? Kurtzgezagt, and The Edge, argue no.

When people think of nuclear energy, their first thought is often the dangers it presents, followed by thoughts of (past) disasters. However, what is rarely talked about is that, when it comes to pros outweighing the cons, nuclear energy has no competition. As with any energy source, dangers are present but looked at with an open mind, nuclear energy is undeniably the best short-term energy solution. This is an important topic which we can’t do justice but if you’re on the fence about nuclear energy and the dangers it poses, give the video a crack and see what you think afterwards.

Bebo is back

Some of you might remember the social network Bebo. Bebo went live in 2005 and then filed for bankruptcy in 2013. After a series of ups and downs, Bebo is back.

While all old user data has been lost to the pages of history, Bebo is claiming that it’s coming back as a totally refined and redesigned social network. Still in private beta, the official version is launching sometime this February. So if Facebook and Instagram aren’t your thing anymore, check out the reborn Bebo.

Military technology

Russia’s latest combat innovation

Wouldn’t want to fight one of these. Image credit: Rostec

Russia Says New Combat Suit Will Survive .50 Caliber Bullets

Rostec, the Russian state-owned military developer, has announced that its next series of combat armour will be able to protect the wearer from a direct .50 caliber shot.

This fourth generation of Rostec’s Sotnik/Centurion battle armour is posed to become the most futuristic infantry armour out there, although a release date has yet to be announced.

However, we do know quite a bit about the third-generation Rostec suit - it comes with night vision, a water filter, internal comms and can withstand 7.62mm shots.

U.S military gear since 1776.

What we’ve been reading

A small selection of the articles we read this week.

Thanks for reading!

We hope you enjoyed this edition of The Edge.

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