Better Beer Through Gene Editing

As much as today’s American beer drinker seems to like hoppy IPAs and other pale ales, it’s a shame that hops are so expensive to produce and transport. Did you know that it can take 50 pints of water to grow enough hops to produce one pint of craft beer? While hops aren’t critical to beer brewing, they do add essential oils and aromas that turn otherwise flat-tasting beer into delicious suds.

Using UC Berkley’s own simple and affordable CRISPR-CaS9 gene editing system, researchers [Charles Denby] and [Rachel Li] have edited strains of brewer’s yeast to make it taste like hops. These modified strains both ferment the beer and provide the hoppy flavor notes that beer drinkers crave. The notes come from mint and basil genes, which the researchers spliced in to yeast genes along with the CaS9 protein and promoters that help make the edit successful. It was especially challenging because brewer’s yeast has four sets of chromosomes, so they had to do everything four times. Otherwise, the yeast might reject the donor genes.

So, how does it taste? A group of employees from a nearby brewery participated in a blind taste test and agreed that the genetically modified beer tasted even hoppier than the control beer. That’s something to raise a glass to. Call and cab and drive across the break for a quick video.

Have you always wanted to brew your own beer, but don’t know where to start? If you have a sous vide cooker, you’re in luck.

Continue reading “Better Beer Through Gene Editing”

DASH: clever construction and resilience in robotics

Behold the Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod (DASH). The video above was presented at the 2009 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. In it we see the toils of a team from UC Berkeley’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab. They’ve developed a robot propulsion system that mimics some of the best aspects of cockroaches and other insect bodies: speed, economy of motion, ability to survive large falls without damage, and the capability to traverse obstacles. Let’s take a look at how they put this together after the break. Continue reading “DASH: clever construction and resilience in robotics”

CuBear, Berkeley’s Rubik’s Cube solver

A team of five UC Berkeley engineering built this impressive Rubik’s Cube solver. The CuBear is a giant transparent cube with a servo attached to each face to rotate the cube’s six faces. The user can either scramble the cube using computer controls or show the faces of a scrambled cube to the onboard webcam, and the machine will replicate it. While scrambling the cube may take many moves, the computer calculates the shortest number of moves to solve the cube before proceeding. Team member [Dan Dzoan] is quite a fast solver himself, as you can see at the end of BotJunkie’s video embedded below. Continue reading “CuBear, Berkeley’s Rubik’s Cube solver”