It’s a long way from a “Star Trek”-style replicator, but the 3D printer engineer Anjun Contractor used to print a square of chocolate got the attention of NASA, and now he and his company, Systems & Materials Research Corporation, have been given $125,000 to develop a version that will print other types of food, starting with pizza. Theoretically, the dough will be printed and baked first, and when it’s ready, the printer will add a layer of tomato sauce followed by a “protein layer” which could come from almost any animal or vegetable source. Contractor says he plans to keep the software open-source in order to encourage people to create their own innovative recipes.
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What’s the Big Idea?
In addition to the obvious benefits of having a food synthesizer on the first manned mission to Mars, the technology could revolutionize how food is made and consumed on Earth. A society where synthesizers are as common as microwaves would enjoy customized meals made from cartridges of edible materials bought at the store. These materials would be shelf-stable for up to 30 years, which could reduce food waste considerably. Even more importantly, says Contractor, “current food systems can’t supply [an estimated future population of] 12 billion people sufficiently. So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.”
A study of participant data from the citizen science project GLOBE at Night shows that on average, people’s observations of artificial night sky brightness were surprisingly accurate compared with satellites.