Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Science of Science Fiction: Fighting Fat with Fat

Who doesn't want to lose a few extra pounds--or maybe more? Turns out there's a type of fat tissue called brown fat which burns calories to generate heat. Babies use it to stay warm, but adults still have a small amount in their necks. Scientists have found a way to trigger the enzyme that makes brown fat burn calories in normal white fat by tweaking the metabolism of rats to simulate cold temperatures. This has to be done carefully, as the enzyme is present in other tissues throughout the body. If you trigger its activity in the wrong place, it could cause side effects. See here for the full article.

Obviously, if we could make this work in people, we could increase our metabolisms and make it easier to lose weight and keep it off. But what would we do with the extra energy? Would it just raise our body temperatures? That could have other consequences, especially as we face a warming environment. It would be cool (pun not intended) if this energy could be channeled into other things. Perhaps it could be used to power electronic implants, for instance. Our brains consume a lot of energy as it is; could this energy be used by the brain? If so, would it enhance our current abilities or make new ones possible? If you want to delve into science fantasy, this energy could be used to fuel some sort of supernatural power, such as something psionic. But perhaps that's pushing the limits of plausibility. I would be happy just to have enough energy to get me through the day!

1 comment:

Barbara Ann Wright said...

That would be awesome. Maybe we'd have the ability to power things with our minds, and then manufacturers would create machines to receive this energy. You could be working at your computer while operating machines or appliances in your home with your mind.

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