The Null Device


Researchers in the US have made advances in the production of cultured meat, i.e., meat grown in nutrients from cell colonies, but barriers, both technical and cultural, remain:

They envisage muscle cells growing on huge sheets that would be regularly stretched to exercise the cells as they grow. Once enough cells had grown, they would be scraped off and shaped into processed meat products such as chicken nuggets.
The idea of doing away with traditional livestock and growing steaks from scratch dates back at least 70 years. In a horizon-scanning essay from 1932, Winston Churchill said: "Fifty years hence we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium."
"Right now, it would be possible to produce something like spam at an incredibly high cost, but the know-how to grow something that has structure, such as a steak, is a long way off," said Mr Matheny.
"It won't appeal to someone who gave up meat because they think it's morally wrong to eat flesh or someone who doesn't want to eat anything unnatural," Ms Bennett [of the Vegetarian Society] added.
Of course, once it is possible to grow meat from donor cells without killing a living thing, a lot of things become possible. How long, I wonder, until some transgressive technogoth type decides to grow steaks from their own muscle cells and holds a cannibal dinner party? Despite the fact that no-one gets hurt, a lot of people would find this beyond the pale, and given how disgust often translates into legislation, chances are the practice will become outlawed in a great many countries. Which, of course, would only drive it underground and give it prestige and cachet.

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As the 10th anniversary of the Blur-vs.-Oasis stoush approaches, John Harris (author of the definitive Britpop history The Last Party) looks at Britpop's legacy:

Frischmann is about to begin life as a mature student in the US. Cocker called time on Pulp in 2002, and seems to have settled into a life of semi-retirement. The lion's share of Britpop's mid-table attractions - Sleeper, Gene, Shed Seven - have split up. By the time you get into the bands who fell at the first hurdle, you begin to wonder whether they ever existed at all; who, aside from the most hard-bitten trivia buffs, has any clear memory of Powder, Northern Uproar, Laxton's Superb or Octopus?
The world these people built, however, has endured. It's where just about every worthwhile British band aspires to be: that speedy production line that takes promising musicians from their local pub venue, introduces them to the NME, and then - if everything goes to plan - inducts them into the head-rattling world of mainstream celebrity. The idea that there was ever an "underground", where bands could ply their trade without paying any attention to the world of commerce, seems almost laughable. Less than a year ago, for instance, the Kaiser Chiefs were an unknown, transparently Blur-influenced band from Leeds. Now, their small handful of keynote hits has become inescapable, and their fans include Paul McCartney and Richard Gere.

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A quote from a Graun interview with Baxter Dury, who, of course, is the son of cockney punk-funker Ian Dury.

"Drugs have never helped music, they've killed music," he says. "People on acid haven't actually made a great deal of music, they've usually gone mad and dug holes in Wales or whatever. People on heroin choke on their own vomit. Cocaine just makes them turn up the high frequencies and ruins everything. Dad was fiercely outspoken about coke, probably did it sometimes, but didn't agree it had any relation to being creative. He smoked a lot of spliff, though."

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Mediterranean drinking and café cultures may so far have eluded Britain; however, a scientist at University College London says that Britain will have to adopt mediterranean-style siestas by the second half of the century to help people cope with global warming and prevent them from dropping like flies as the mercury increasingly hits the 40s.

An artist's impression of a British siesta, circa 2060.

Which is odd, because Australia (and, I believe, the US south) keep Anglo-Saxon working hours and have quite hot days in summer. Either British temperatures are expected to exceed current Australian temperatures significantly, or the Australian solution of installing air conditioners everywhere has been ruled out (perhaps because there won't be enough fossil fuels to power air conditioners by then?)

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