The Six Million Dollar Jellyfish

An illustration of jellyfish swimming in the ocean by Rebecca Konte. The jellyfish are wearing cones on their "heads" to streamline their swimming that contain some sort of electronics inside.

What if you could rebuild a jellyfish: better, stronger, faster than it was before? Caltech now has the technology to build bionic jellyfish.

Studying the ocean given its influence on the rest of the climate is an important scientific task, but the wild pressure differences as you descend into the eternal darkness make it a non-trivial engineering problem. While we’ve sent people to the the deepest parts of the ocean, submersibles are much too expensive and risky to use for widespread data acquisition.

The researchers found in previous work that making a cyborg jellyfish was more effective than biomimetic jellyfish robots, and have now given the “biohybrid robotic jellyfish” a 3D-printed, neutrally buoyant, swimming cap. In combination with the previously-developed “pacemaker,” these cyborg jellyfish can explore the ocean (in a straight line) at 4.5x the speed of a conventional moon jelly while carrying a scientific payload. Future work hopes to make them steerable like the well-known robo-cockroaches.

If you’re interested in some other attempts to explore Earth’s oceans, how about drift buoys, an Open CTD, or an Open ROV? Just don’t forget to keep the noise down!

14 thoughts on “The Six Million Dollar Jellyfish

  1. Okay, besides being kind of gobsmacked that this is even a line of research … I have a hard time whenever someone trots out “They don’t have pain receptors …. ” or “They don’t feel pain … ” Just say it, “It’s not cute and it’s not human so we will do whatever we want.” I mean remember, this is just the first step. Next is actually controlling direction and that will likely be less benign.

    1. Jellyfish need a new PR guy.
      Puppies have PawPatrol, ponies have MyLittlePony, pigs have PeppaPig, rabbits have BugsBunny and even sea sponges have SpingeBobSquarePants.

    2. The line “It’s okay to eat fish ’cause they don’t have any feelings…” is a lyric from the Nirvana song “Something in the Way” by Kurt Cobain. It’s important to understand that this line is not meant to be a literal statement about fish sentience or the ethics of eating them.

      Here are some different interpretations of the line:

      The line can be seen as ironic, highlighting the hypocrisy of humans who are concerned about the welfare of some animals (like dogs or cats) but not others (like fish).
      It critiques the inconsistency in how we value different lives based on factors like species or perceived intelligence.
      Internal Conflict:
      Some interpret the line as reflecting Cobain’s own internal struggle with his vegetarianism. He may have been struggling to reconcile his desire to be compassionate with the practicalities of his diet.
      Meaningless Justification:
      The line can also be interpreted as a meaningless justification for consuming fish, highlighting how humans often create justifications for actions that conflict with our morals.

      Ultimately, the meaning of the line is ambiguous and open to interpretation. It’s important to consider the context of the song and Cobain’s broader views on animal welfare when forming your own interpretation.

    3. It’s very troubling. Jellyfish are probably the most intelligent invertebrate. I’ve seen videos of them opening jars and solving complex mazes. Their brains are more distributed than mammals, with much more complex nervous tissue in the tentacles and enormous visual cortexes.

    4. Sea cucumber is an Asian delicacy.

      Tastes like the sauce it was cooked in (black been), just like escargot (garlic butter).
      But texture, slimy as .

      Will not order again. Only had Cantonese version, but had that several times, two places (work). YMWV

      As a practical mater, such protein is harvested in bulk. Food for cats and farmed fish.

  2. Seems like grant bait, you can throw the word climate on something and get a lot of money making 3d-printed plastic hats for jellyfish (which is a sweet gig, not gonna lie)

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