One of the perks of doing research is that you get to see lots of intimidating institutions (or institutions you had never heard of) from the inside that you normally just read about in the papers when ‘expert opinions’ are needed. So far, I’ve been to the Institute of Physics, the Royal Academy of Engineering (which had surprisingly good vegetarian catering!), the Royal Geographical Society and, today, the Royal Society (without anything behind it).
The first thing I noticed inside were the marble walls – they looked kind of antique, but had these modern vent slits carved into them, which, together with the modern halogen lighting and glass-doors, gave the place a truly post-modern feel and for a moment took me back to the Louise Bourgeois exhibition I went to last year! Indeed, I had come to these marble walls with the intention of hearing about something more squishy – a lecture on nanotechnology and food – just because I was curious how my favourite mutable matter (I also have a cookery blog and work as a volunteer cook for a charity) was talked about in context with recent technological developments.
The ‘Albert Franks Memorial Lecture’ entitled ‘Micro and Nanotechnologies for Food – a Healthy and Safe Option?’ was open to the public and did not require any specialist knowledge at all. Its content was more or less what this BBC article tells us about researchers’ attempts to make junk food consumers eat more healthily:
BBC NEWs – Future foods: friend or foe? Nanotechnology – the food industry’s (and junk food eating couch potato’s?) ultimate fantasy? We shall probably know sooner that we can down a cup of Starbuck’s extra-super-omni-flavour-godknowswhat. Apparently, cereal packaging has already been modified to tell us about the benefits of nano foods! Not like this one though…
Source: Food For Design
Of course, this was not the only topic of the two-hour talk, but it took up the biggest part. Electronic tagging of food (and ‘electronic noses’ that can tell the composition of foods just by being near it) for people with allergies, packaging for perishable goods to increase shelf-life and visual indicators for ripeness were other examples of the University of Wageningen’s research.
For me, it was particularly interesting to hear people discuss things such as healthy eating and the effects of modern farming on nutrient content of food in context with what tends to be perceived as an ‘unnatural’ technology, at least, according to the speaker Frans Kampers, director of the Wageningen biotechnology centre for food and health innovation.
After the lecture, I was actually surprisingly hungry… not for junk food though! ;)