Evolution proves to be just about as ingenious as Nikola Tesla
- For the first time, scientists developed 3D scans of shark intestines to learn how they digest what they eat.
- The scans reveal an intestinal structure that looks awfully familiar — it looks like a Tesla valve.
- The structure may allow sharks to better survive long breaks between feasts.
Considering how much sharks are feared by humans, it is a bit of a surprise that scientists don't know much about the predators. For example, until recently, sharks were thought to be solitary creatures searching the seas for food on their own. Now it appears that some sharks are quite social.
Another mystery is how these prehistoric swimming and eating machines digest food. Although scientists have made 2D sketches of captured sharks' digestive systems based on dissections, there is a limit to what can be learned in this way. Professor Adam Summers at University of Washington's Friday Harbor Labs says:
"Intestines are so complex, with so many overlapping layers, that dissection destroys the context and connectivity of the tissue. It would be like trying to understand what was reported in a newspaper by taking scissors to a rolled-up copy. The story just won't hang together."
Summers is co-author of a new study that has produced the first 3D scans of a shark's intestines, which turns out to have a strange, corkscrew structure. What's even more bizarre is that it resembles the amazing one-way valve designed by inventor Nikola Tesla in 1920. The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
What a 3D model reveals
Video: Pacific spiny dogfish intestine youtu.be
According to the study's lead author Samantha Leigh, "It's high time that some modern technology was used to look at these really amazing spiral intestines of sharks. We developed a new method to digitally scan these tissues and now can look at the soft tissues in such great detail without having to slice into them."
"CT scanning is one of the only ways to understand the shape of shark intestines in three dimensions," adds Summers. The researchers scanned the intestines of nearly three dozen different shark species.
It is believed that sharks go for extended periods — days or even weeks — between big meals. The scans reveal that food passes slowly through the intestine, affording sharks' digestive system the time to fully extract its nutrient value. The researchers hypothesize that such a slow digestive process may also require less energy.
It could be that this slow digestion is more susceptible to back flow given that the momentum of digested food through the tract must be minimal. Perhaps that is why sharks evolved something so similar to a Tesla valve.
What is Tesla's valve doing there?
Above, a Tesla valve. Below, a shark intestine.Credit: Samantha Leigh / California State University, Domi
Tesla's "valvular conduit," or what the world now calls a "Tesla valve," is a one-way valve with no moving parts. Its brilliance is based in fluid dynamics and only now coming to be fully appreciated. Essentially, a series of teardrop-shaped loops arranged along the length of the valve allow water to flow easily in one direction but not in the other. Modern tests reveal that at low flow rates, water can travel through the valve either way, but at high flow rates, the design kicks in. According to mathematician Leif Ristroph:
"Crucially, this turn-on comes with the generation of turbulent flows in the reverse direction, which 'plug' the pipe with vortices and disrupting currents. Moreover, the turbulence appears at far lower flow rates than have ever previously been observed for pipes of more standard shapes — up to 20 times lower speed than conventional turbulence in a cylindrical pipe or tube. This shows the power it has to control flows, which could be used in many applications."
A deeper dive
Summers suggests the scans are just the beginning. "The vast majority of shark species, and the majority of their physiology, are completely unknown," says Summers, adding that "every single natural history observation, internal visualization, and anatomical investigation shows us things we could not have guessed at."
To this end, the researchers plan to use 3D printing to produce models through which they can observe the behavior of different substances passing through them — after all, sharks typically eat fish, invertebrates, mammals, and seagrass. They also plan to explore with engineers ways in which the shark intestine design could be used industrially, perhaps for the treatment of wastewater or for filtering microplastics.
It could fairly be said, though, that Nikola Tesla was 100 years ahead of them.
The electric car manufacturer says updates to its battery design and manufacturing process will help lower production costs.
- The high cost of batteries is the main reason why electric vehicles cost more than gas-powered cars.
- At the company's 'Battery Day' event on Tuesday, Tesla announced a new battery design that will give its cars more power and a longer range.
- The success of Tesla's plan depends on its ability to scale up production.
Cheaper, more efficient batteries. That's what Tesla says will allow it to offer a $25,000 electric car within the next three years. The announcements came at the company's "Battery Day" event on Tuesday afternoon in Palo Alto, California.
"One of the things that troubles me the most is that we don't yet have a truly affordable car, and that is something that we will make in the future," Tesla CEO Elon Musk told a socially distanced audience, who were sitting in cars in a parking lot. "But in order to do that, we've got to get the cost of batteries down."
How to cut costs? Tesla is working on a design update for its batteries, and the company plans to begin manufacturing them in-house. (Panasonic currently produces Tesla batteries.) A key design update is removing a tab within the battery that connects the cell to what it powers.
"You actually have a shorter path length [for the electron to travel] in a large tabless cell than you have in the smaller cell with tabs," Musk said. "So even though the cell is bigger, it actually has more power."
Tesla also plans to lower costs by using nickel instead of cobalt in its cathodes. The company said its new cathode design would reduce costs by about 75 percent, and also remove waste water from the manufacturing process.
What's more, the international cobalt supply is limited, and most of it comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where adult and child miners are known to be exploited.
Screenshot of Tesla's 'Battery Day' presentation
It's unclear when Tesla will stop using cobalt, or when it will stop sourcing its batteries from Panasonic. But Tesla claims that its new battery design and manufacturing changes will allow it to cut the cost per kilowatt-hour in half. If Tesla can successfully scale up production, the company could hit its goal of $100 per kilowatt-hour sooner than expected.
Hitting that mark could usher in the electric-car revolution, considering $100 per kilowatt-hour is generally regarded as the threshold the industry needs to reach in order to make electric vehicles cost competitive with gas-powered cars.
A $25,000 electric car would also be Tesla's cheapest offering by far. The company had previously promised a $35,000 car, but only offered one at that price for a limited time. Tesla's website says its Model 3, its cheapest car, starts at about $39,000.
Photo of Tesla's new battery design
To be sure, Musk is known for promising big on his projects, but not always following through on the promised timetable. But despite having an "insanely hard" 2020, as Musk said, Tesla's had a good past couple years.
"In 2019, we had 50% growth," Musk said at the event. "And I think we'll do really pretty well in 2020, probably somewhere between 30 to 40 percent growth, despite a lot of very difficult circumstances."
These products are sure to inspire anyone who loves the work of engineer and inventor, Nikola Tesla.
- A prolific inventor, Nikola Tesla has been dubbed "the man who invented the 20th century."
- Tesla is best known for inventing the Tesla coil and the first alternating current (AC) electric system.
- These gifts are designed to inspire engineers, scientists, and general fans of Nikola Tesla and his work.
A list of the greatest minds of all time would not be complete without a nod to "the man who invented the 20th century," Nikola Tesla. Born in modern-day Croatia in 1856, Tesla was a scientist and engineer remembered for his many brilliant ideas, designs, and inventions, including the first alternating-current electric system, radio remote control, and the Tesla Coil.
Tesla has received a major boost in popularity in recent years, thanks in no small part to the electric vehicle company that bears his name. Formerly Tesla Motors (now Tesla, Inc.), the company is led by Elon Musk, an entrepreneur and engineer who considers himself a fan of both Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. But Musk isn't alone. Several decades after his death, Tesla's legacy lives on through his devoted fans and fellow thinkers who respect all that he accomplished in the name of science. If you have a Nikola Tesla fan in your life, here are 5 gifts that are sure to inspire them to uphold his legacy and invent objects and tools that will change the world.
Wearing a shirt with Tesla's face on it says that you think he's cool, but wearing Tesla-themed socks puts you on another level. Generating static on the carpet and shocking family members is much more fun with these on.
Illuminate nearby bulbs, play music, and enjoy the spinning light show with this Tesla Coil model. The product comes pre-assembled and is as easy as plugging in a cable and hitting a switch. Science teachers and other reviewers on Amazon say that while the speaker isn't made for parties, the model provides hours of fun and is a great way to visualize Tesla's experiments.
Standing 7.5 inches tall and weighing 2 pounds, this highly detailed cold cast bronze bust of Nikola Tesla brings its owner face to face with their inspiration. According to reviewers, the base is covered with felt so it doesn't slide or scratch the surface beneath. The production process involves adding a bronze powder to resin and pouring it into a mold. The final casting is lighter (and cheaper) than solid metal, but the detail still shines through. It's like having your mentor there as you study and create.
Made by a company called ThemToys, this custom LEGO figure depicts the inventor in experimenting with electricity in his lab. The set includes the Tesla figure, an electricity holder, and an electricity tower. The scene can be displayed on a desk, mantle, bookcase, or anywhere the innovative spirit of Nikola Tesla is needed.
There have been many books written about the life and works of Nikola Tesla, but this is the closest we will get to hearing it directly from the source. Originally published in 1919, this autobiography was compiled and edited by Ben Johnston. The primary sources were articles that Tesla wrote for a magazine called "The Electrical Experimenter." The book is divided into six parts, beginning with a chapter on Tesla wrote on his early life, and concluding with a discussion of "The Art of Telautomatics." Even if some of the details go over their heads, it's a must-have for any Nikola Tesla fan.
When you buy something through a link in this article Big Think earns a small affiliate commission. Thank you for supporting our team's work.
Twain and Tesla had similar passions and an amusing friendship.
- Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Nikola Tesla shared a friendship starting in 1890s.
- Tesla read a lot of early Twain when recovering from a serious illness.
- The two shared an interest in electricity.
Having famous friends can be both a blessing and a burden in our oversaturated media age. But about a hundred years ago, it could be quite fun to hang out with brilliant minds and discuss earth-shattering ideas. And no friendship is perhaps any more curious than the one between the legendary American writer Mark Twain and one of the most iconoclastic minds ever - Nikola Tesla.
By many accounts, Mark Twain was fascinated by technology and electricity, in particular. Visiting New York in the 1890s, he became friends with Nikola Tesla, who had an interest in Mark Twain, having read some of his early works when he was recovering from a life-threatening illness in the 1870s. That's before he emigrated to the United States. The books were instrumental in Tesla's recovery, according to the scientist himself, who said the stories by Twain were "so captivating as to make me utterly forget my hopeless state."
In Tesla's Lab. 1894. Mark Twain holds Tesla's vacuum lamp, powered by a loop of wire that gets electromagnetic energy from a Tesla coil. Tesla's face is in the background.
Tesla got to explain this to Twain 25 years later, when they met, bringing the writer to tears.
While the life-saving power of Twain's words and their imaginations may have been the secret sauce behind the friendship, another factor that drew them together was simply money. Twain, or Samuel Clemens as was his real name, invested in new tech, including an electrical motor in the 1880s. This fact made Tesla's name known to Twain, who'd been hearing about the motor Tesla invented for Westinghouse. As historian Juliana Adelman wrote for Irish Times, Tesla actually advised Twain against investing into a motor created by James W. Paige – an advice the famous writer didn't heed, losing a large sum of money on Paige's mechanical typesetter.
In the end, Twain did think Tesla's motor design was superior and was a frequent visitor in the inventor's lab, even taking part in experiments. A number of photographs are testament to these fascinating interactions.
In Tesla's lab. 1894. Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943, blurred at centre) is in the midst of an electrical experiment with writer Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain (1835 – 1910, left) and actor Joseph Jefferson (1829 – 1905).
Photo: Kostich/FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images
One well-known story about Clemens is that Tesla cured the writer's constipation. The author of "Tom Sawyer" took part in an experiment where he spent a considerable amount of time on an electromechanical oscillator, which generated high-frequency alternating current and featured a vibrating plate. It was also known as the "earthquake" machine for its shaking and noise.
Tesla believed it could be medically helpful to Twain, who was known to have digestive problems. Vibrations could help with constipation is how some accounts describe Tesla's reasoning. The writer apparently did enjoy the machine for a few minutes until it started to behave like a laxative, sending him off to the restroom.
The friendship between the two titans also included Twain's invitations for Tesla to join the Players Club in 1888 and to attend the wedding of Twain's daughter.
The new version's battery has a shorter range and a price $4,000 lower than the previous starting price.
- Tesla's new version of the Model 3 costs $45,000 and can travel 260 miles on one charge.
- The Model 3 is the best-selling luxury car in the U.S.
- Tesla still has yet to introduce a fully self-driving car, even though it once offered the capability as an option to be installed at a future date.
Tesla is now offering a cheaper version of its Model 3 sedan at a starting price of $45,000.
CEO Elon Musk announced the new version in a tweet on Thursday.
The Model 3 has been Tesla's lowest priced car since hitting the market in July 2017. As the best-selling luxury car in the U.S., the Model 3 had a starting price of $49,000 when it came with rear-wheel drive, though this version will soon become unavailable.
The new version of the Model 3 features rear-wheel drive and a 'mid-range' battery that can take drivers up to 260 miles on one charge, which is shorter than the 310-mile range of the 'long-range' battery. In the next three to six months, Tesla hopes to offer customers a standard battery model with a 200-mile range and a long-promised starting price of $35,000.
Dwindling tax credits for customers
Customers hoping to score a tax credit when buying the new Model 3 will likely be disappointed.
Tesla recently announced that only orders placed by Oct. 15 would be eligible for the $7,500 that used to accompany each sale. That's because federal law only allowed for the full tax credits until Tesla hit 200,000 sales, after which begins an 18-month phase-out process. The tax credits are scheduled to drop to $3,750 starting Jan. 1, to $1,875 on July 1, and then disappearing altogether by the end of 2019.
Full self-driving autopilot
In addition to offering the new mid-range Model 3, Tesla also recently removed the "full self-driving" option from its orders page. This capability isn't currently available in any model—customers were previously able to pay extra for the feature to be installed at a future date—though Tesla cars do have driver-assist capabilities.
"Please note that Self-Driving functionality is dependent upon extensive software validation and regulatory approval, which may vary widely by jurisdiction," reads the Tesla website.
Musk tweeted that this controversial option was "causing too much confusion."
The removal comes just days after Musk announced that a major upgrade to Tesla's Autopilot system will be available in about six months. (Autopilot is the system that uses cameras, sensors and GPS to automatically control Tesla vehicles.) The upcoming hardware update, which could bring a 500 to 2,000-percent increase in operations per second, will be free only to customers who chose to pay for the (somewhat deceptively named) "full self-driving" option at the time of purchase.
These customers will also be among the first to receive the full-driving capability when it does become available, though that almost certainly won't happen within six months.