Sometimes scientists get so wrapped up in a stroke of genius that they lose sight of reality. Take the idea of making LED lighting from food waste. That is a truly wonderful bit of lateral thinking, and they have succeeded in doing it.
And yet it’s entirely pointless. Of course, that is no reason to not do it. I firmly believe in experimenting for the sake of it and doing weird stuff just to see if it can be done. I mean, I have painted a London bus with tiny paintbrushes and am currently using nail polish to make a sparkly truck. So if someone says ‘I wonder if we can make a working LED out of a stale taco?’ then I’m in.
It’s what science was like when I started. When I was involved in measuring tiny levels of oxygen using luminous marine bacteria (Vibrio fischeri is a lovely sight in a dark incubator room) and wrote papers on poking a mass spectrometer into cows and sheep. I wrote a thesis on the protozoa of the rumen and in my spare time I found methane oxidising bacteria in the pig gut just for fun.
At some point it stopped being fun. The bean counters who can’t spell IQ started asking ‘Yes, very clever, but how do we sell it?’
Sell it? We don’t sell science, we just publish it and move on. It was never designed to be a business. Sure, the discoveries do lead to new stuff like video tapes and CDs and DVDs but you have to have the background randomness and the drinking sessions disguised as serious scientific meetings for that to happen.
You need to be seriously pissed to think that writing on an aluminium disk with a laser is a good idea.
How drunk you have to get to think about making LEDs from food waste, I can’t even imagine, and the big shock is that this comes from the university of Utah.
They don’t drink there. It’s Mormon country.
Therefore it’s inherent in the scientist, not in the drink. Crazy lateral thinking is what we do anyway. We probably do it better and faster after a few beers but it is what we do.
What we don’t do, or care about, is making a sellable product. It does happen but it’s an accident. We were just trying things out
It’s different when you work as a company scientist. You have targets. A university scientist should care nothing about profit and just work on curiosity. Ninety percent will be idle knowledge gathering but the other ten percent will change the world.
You see the effect of the bean counters in the link, and the desperate attempts of the scientists to justify their existence. Some flaws…
In addition to utilising food and beverage waste that would otherwise decompose and be of no use,
Oh come on. The council charge to get your food waste taken away and they sell it to be made into compost and next year you buy it back at the garden centre.
For example, sucrose and D-fructose dissolved in soft drinks were found to be the most effective sources for production of CDs, said the team.
Sigh. Soft drinks do not get into the recycling stream. The plastic bottles do, but never the contents. Anything left gets poured away. The council insists.
The best thing to make these environmentally friendly LEDs are readily available cheap sugars, and yet the scientists insist on an extraction process using solvents from food waste?
Just let some company make the lights if they want to.
Get back to wild science, folks 🙂