Better Than Soylent Green?

Chianti optional.
Chianti optional.

The world has never stopped looking for alternative food sources. And they have found some doozies. From the deep fried bug market in Thailand to the horse sashimi fetish in Kazakhstan, it seems that humans are always finding ways not to starve. And, I suppose, that’s a good thing. If we all starved to death who would we make fun of? Or, more importantly in our self centered world, who would make fun of us? For the record, I have tried a wide variety of foods. Including bugs and horse. For the most part, except for raw horse, you probably wouldn’t know you were eating anything odd unless someone told you or your counted the legs and feelers before you chewed. Back in 1973 Richard Fleischer directed a film about how to recycle humans into food called Soylent Green. It scared the living bejeezus out of a lot of folks. My mom wouldn’t touch chili for years after that.

Of course that was back in the day when world hunger was just becoming an international issue. Now things are okay, right?

Wrong.

Thanks to greedy dictatorships, inefficient distribution methods and downright corruption the world’s food is not getting to the world’s hungry. And, don’t get me wrong, there is enough food to go around.

So what to do?

Scientists at NASA have decided that throwing a little money at the problem might lead to a big solution. And by “little” I mean about what one third of what an NFL rookie makes at league minimum.

Eric Pfeiffer, at Yahoo News, has the whole story.

Call it food for thought. Or perhaps thought for foodNASA has given a six-month grant to a company developing what could be the world’s first 3-D food printer. And the project’s developer, reports Quartz, an online digital news site, believes the invention could be used to end world hunger.

Quartz explains that the printer is the brainchild of mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor. Being developed by Contractor’s company, Systems & Materials Research Corp., it will use proteins, carbohydrates and sugars to create edible food products.

Contractor says one of his primary motivations is a belief that food will become exponentially more expensive in the near future. The average consumer, he told Quartz, will need a more economically viable option.

Some alternative food source options that may be used with the printer include algae, duckweed, grass, lupine seeds, beet leaves and even insects, according to TNO Research, which is working with Contractor on the project.

“I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently,” said Contractor. “So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.”

One of Contractor’s first prototypes will be a 3-D pizza printer, and he hopes to begin building it over the next couple of weeks. Contractor, reports Quartz, explained that it will print “a layer of dough, which is baked at the same time it’s printed, by a heated plate at the bottom of the printer. Then it lays down a tomato base, ‘which is also stored in a powdered form, and then mixed with water and oil.'” Lastly comes the “protein layer.”

Contractor also hopes that people will be able to share recipes via an open source coding system.

“One of the major advantages of a 3-D printer is that it provides personalized nutrition,” Contractor told Quartz. “If you’re male, female, someone is sick—they all have different dietary needs. If you can program your needs into a 3-D printer, it can print exactly the nutrients that person requires.”

NASA is certainly a believer: The six-month grant comes to $125,000. The agency specifically interested in using the 3-D printer to feed astronauts on long space voyages.

“Long distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf life,” Contractor said to Quartz. “The way we are working on it is, all the carbs, proteins and macro and micro nutrients are in powder form. We take moisture out, and in that form it will last maybe 30 years.”

You will notice that taste wasn’t mentioned. Ever since THX-1138 presented the idea of food paste as opposed to Star Trek’s version of a replicator that could make a gourmet meal, people have held low hopes for flavor in space.

But, more importantly and closer to home, if this works these printers could easily be distributed throughout the world and the hungry would need be hungry no more.

And, as I have noted before, people who aren’t hungry or desperate tend to concentrate on living normal lives and not fomenting rebellion.

Oh, and they frolic. In fact, we should all frolic right now in a show of non-hungry unity.

Caged Animals : ‘All the Beautiful Things In The World’ (NSFW)
from the album EAT THEIR OWN

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