Yes, you heard us right. Sir Patrick Stewart. Drones. Whale mucus. What could be the crossword to connect these three elements? Well, I might enlighten some by saying two words: money and Snotbot. What is Snotbot? Well, it’s a drone, supported with money by many people including Sir Patrick, designed to collect snot, or mucus, from whales.
There you have it.
It seems that, although in one of his screen personas Stewart embodies a rancorous old maniac with an obsession for whales, particularly, the White Whale, the real life captain Ahab is pretty far from the one imagined by Herman Melville.
We have no further information regarding whether Captain Picard or Professor Charles Xavier would support such an ambitious project. What we do know comes from a video shared by Sir Patrick Steward himself in which the Shakespearean actor, who just recently turned 70, is being harassed in his home by a pair of white lab-coat wearing scientists.
The two are shooting him with a biopsy dart, blowing a horn and checking his stress levels, and taking his snot tissues. To what end? Well, they are trying to demonstrate that as humans do not like their intimacy to be intruded upon, neither do whales.
Up until now there had been no other way of analyzing whales and getting samples of their cells besides using biopsy darts, fired from boats which blow their horns quite often, or through directly taking their mucus from the blow-hole.
This is, clearly, not a good way, since it elevates the stress level of the whale. Besides the ethical concerns of this, there are even scientific reasons why the drones are better: stressed whales can deliver confusing results in tests.
The Snotbot is a project developed by a combined team of researchers from Ocean Alliance and from Olin College of Engineering. The little flying objects hover above the seas and wait for the whale to blow and then gather the snot that rises above them. One other major forte of the project is that it will not require big research vessels to go out and probably scare the whales off. The drones could be quietly controled by remote from a small boat not that far away.
How would you feel if your doctor followed you around with darts, horns and collecting all your tissues? This is the question that Iain Kerr, the CEO of the company asks in order to encourage people to donate for this good cause.
Ocean Alliance have already kicked off a Kickstarter page for this project and are hoping to raise as much as $225,000 for the drone powered research. Sir Patrick Stewart backs the project. Will you?
Image source: cbslocal.com