Asteroid mining, lab-grown meat, and more: these five watershed moments in science and technology will change the world – and some sooner than we may think.
1. What if meat was more environmentally friendly?
The eco-burger of the future will be grown in a vat, by taking animal stem cells and feeding them nutrients until they grow into pieces of tissue large enough to eat.
This is the technology behind lab-grown meat, also known as cultured or ‘clean’ meat. While it may not sound exactly appetising, it’s much kinder than traditionally-reared meat: the donor animals need not be slaughtered.
Lab-grown meat has a much smaller environmental footprint, too. A 2011 study calculated that growing 1kg (2.2lb) of meat from cells used over 200 times less land and around 30 times less water than raising a cow for 1kg of beef – and around half the energy. (A more recent, less optimistic analysis suggests lab-grown meat could actually be more energy-intensive than chicken, though still better than beef.)