Cool Hunting has surprised me with a boatload of great news. I am going to copy them below, because they make me very happy!
World’s First Vaccine for Honeybees Approved
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made a significant advancement in the mission to save honeybees and will be using the world’s first vaccine produced to protect the insects from American foulbrood disease. Caused by the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae, it’s a fatal disease for bees that’s easily spread between hives and has been devastating for honeybee colonies. Developed by the US-based biotech company Dalan Animal Health, the vaccine works by “incorporating some of the bacteria into the royal jelly fed by worker bees to the queen, which then ingests it and gains some of the vaccine in the ovaries. The developing bee larvae then have immunity to foulbrood as they hatch.” (Previously, the only solution has been to incinerate affected hives.) The vaccine will be made available to commercial beekeepers first. This is a huge step in saving bees, insects that are essential to “ecosystems and human food security and [the] health” of plants, animals and humans. Read more at The Guardian.
How Ancient Roman Concrete Self-Heals
The durability of ancient Roman structures has long been a mystery to scientists who have sought to determine how early concrete endured for over two millennia. A new study resolves the enigma, focusing on an inclusion (often disregarded as a byproduct) that allows Roman concrete to repair itself: chunks of material referred to as lime clasts. Scientists have found that the clasts are made up of calcium carbonate formed at a high-temperature, most likely by adding a more reactive form of lime called quicklime. This makes the composition brittle, enabling cracks that occur in the concrete to move through the lime clasts easily. Then, when water mixes into these cracks, it forms a solution that hardens back into calcium carbonate, sealing the gap. By re-creating this quicklime concrete and comparing its strength to modern materials, the authors of the study now seek to use their findings to develop stronger commercial concrete. Learn more at New Atlas.
Old Technology Creates a Sustainable Alternative to Palm Oil
The cultivation of palm oil—a common ingredient in food and beauty products—causes mass deforestation. Around 47% of Malaysia’s forests have been lost, for instance, in order to make way for palm plantations. While finding a replacement for the oil has proven difficult (as it is uniquely composed of almost equal parts saturated and unsaturated fats, a ratio that makes it shelf-stable), scientists have finally devised an alternative—surprisingly, using old technology. During World War I, when food was scarce, German researchers produced high-fat pastes from yeast, growing microbes and microorganisms like algae and feeding them oxygen and sugar to create fermentation. This allowed the microbes to multiply until they reached critical mass, when their oils were extracted. Startups have begun optimizing this technology, including the Netherlands-based company NoPalm (which uses the yeast produced by potato peels and rejected vegetables) and NYC-based company C16 Biosciences (which is slated to launch a hydrating bio oil made by microbial oil in early 2023). Learn more about the vital alternative at National Geographic.