National Geographic : 2003 Jan
ethics of tampering with a goat's genes, Turner pointed out that the goats aren't harmed. "Why are people afraid?" he asked rhetorically, then answered his question: "People fear newness; people fear change." Production of spider silk is at least 18 months away, but already Turner envisions applications for the new material, called BioSteel. First on the market, he said, would be suture thread for eye surgery finer and stronger than today's nylon, then antiballistic vests and biodegradable fish ing lines. In the far-out future-applications department, Turner proposes a space elevator. "Why use rockets to lift objects into orbit? Why not do something different? Why not have a honking big satellite and dangle a rope down to the Earth and pull them up? OK-so it's 200 miles, and there's not a rope that will hold its weight at that length-but spider silk with its high strength-to-weight ratio could. "Civilizations define themselves by the mate rials they use," Turner said. "The industrial rev olution came about because of steel. Computers came from silicon. We are about to enter the age of bio-mimicry. It's back to nature." Th igg : s i iial bil l I've ever seen sits like a giant pearl in a clamshell-like hangar made of a textile membrane four football fields in length and 35 stories tall in Brand, Germany, an hour's drive south of Berlin. It is called the CL 75 (CL stands for CargoLifter), and it is a 20-story-high balloon made of high-tensile strength fabric that is really a test craft for an even larger lighter-than-air ship, to be built sometime in the next five years. The CL 160 is a modern-day version of dirigibles like the ill fated Hindenburg.Unlike the Hindenburg,which was filled with hydrogen, the CL 160 will use noncombustible helium. The CL 160 will be larger than the Hinden burg, and its envelope will be made of 420,000 square feet of a high-strength fabric known as Vectran. The dirigible will be in the business of heavy lifting. It will move huge factory 70 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * JANUARY 2003 Dunebuggy, a purebred Jersey belonging to Peter Hawkes of Mendon, Massachusetts, models a blouse knit from a silklike fiber made of casein, a protein found in milk. In a reflection of the global nature of new textile research, the fiber was manufactured by Toyobo in Japan, spun into yam by Filpucci in Italy, and knit into fabric by Frantech in France. turbines or structural steel beams or oil refinery equipment from one place to another without worrying about obstacles like roads, power lines, or traffic. But to watch Hinrich Schliep hack, CargoLifter's marketing director, and other company executives dream up applica tions is to sense that the sky is literally and figuratively the limit.