“Let there Be Light” on the Golf Course 24/7

“Let there Be Light” on the Golf Course 24/7 February 17, 2016

Glowing-tree (1)The Associated Press announced Monday that Quicken Loans will sponsor a night-time, one-round, golf match under the lights between popular PGA Tour pros Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler. They currently are #3 and 4 respectively in World Sony rankings. This match will include celebrities–thus Team McIlroy and Team Fowler. It will be played at Detroit Golf Club on June 7th during the week before the U.S. Open that will be staged at Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh. The event will be televised live on the Golf Channel, apparently at 7-9 PM ET, so that not all of the eighteen holes will be televised.

Televising a single golf match at night, thus under lights, is not new to some of the top PGA Tour players. Tiger Woods did some of that from 1999 until the matches were stopped in 2005. But those matches were always under artificial lighting. Someday, in perhaps the not-too-distant future, golf may be played at night around the world on golf courses that produce their own natural light from trees, bushes, and maybe even the grass. Of course, it depends on how much light they produce as to whether or not idea will succeed. If it happens with grass, bring back colored golf balls!

On June 8, 2013, a small biotech company in San Francisco, which involves three guys in their twenties, raised nearly $500,000 on Kickstarter to try to genetically engineer plants that will illuminate. Atony Evans is a co-founder, and Kyle Taylor is the chief scientist who has discovered how to add some DNA from elsewhere to plant cells that cause them to glow like the luciferin in fireflies at night. The main goal is to create trees having leaves that glow brightly enough to serve as a substitute for street lights. That’s because street lights use one-fifth of all commercial energy expended in the U.S.

This idea was a sensation on Kickstarter because these guys were only trying to raise $65,000. The story immediately went viral on the Internet, and major news outlets covered it. Some respected scientists think these young fellows may pull it off. And it’s a green-green project in that it will reduce carbon emissions that result from the making of electricity with fossil fuels. These fellows are trying to get government funding for their project. To date, they are about ready to send seeds to paying customers.

These fellows have not revealed their trade secrets. Oceans cover 70% of the earth’s surface. The average depth of the oceans is about 12,000 feet, thus over two miles. Sunlight can only penetrate seawater to a depth of 2,000-3,000 feet. So, most of the earth’s seawater exists in total darkness. Yet there are numerous sea creatures that dwell there and are unexplored by humans.

Hundreds of saltwater species of fish and invertebrates such as jellyfish exhibit a bright-shining appearance called bioluminescence or biofluorescence that is usually blue or green. Most of them live deep in the oceans in total darkness. They emit their light either continuously or intermittently by mixing two chemicals with oxygen, all within themselves. The two chemical pigments are luciferin and luciferase. For many of these marine animals, their bioluminescence is their primary or sole source of light. Search “bioluminescence on the Internet to view beautiful photos of it. David Gruber says in his book, Aglow in the Dark, that the discovery in 1960 of how bioluminescence works is one of the great discoveries of the 20th century.

Many tourists to Puerto Rico are familiar with this phenomenon. Dinoflagellates are microscopic, complex, single-cell organisms that light up Mosquito Bay and a bay beside Visques Island with an amazing illumination when they are agitated at night by splashing the water.

This Kickstarter attempt at synthetic biology is called the Glowing Plant Project. It involves genetically modifying organisms (GMO). That’s a very controversial subject nowadays. Corn, wheat, and other foodstuffs have been genetically modified in the U.S. and other countries. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has not established regulations about this. Our government health agencies have approved some of these GMO foods as safe for human consumption. Some food products in stores are being labeled GMO because a certain portion of the American public demands it. The reason is that some people fear that GMO foods will, or may, prove harmful to human health in the future. See an update the Glowing Plant Project at http://www.glowingplant.com/.

Likewise, and at least since March, 2014, leading Dutch designer Dann Roosegaarde has been working with a laboratory at Stony Brook University, New York, to put luciferin in trees and other plants to make them glow. In fact, several high-profile universities in the world are now exploring in laboratories the future benefit of bioluminescence for humankind. See this brief article about it in Popular Mechanics at http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/green-tech/g706/6-bright-ideas-for-bioluminescence-tech/?slide=7.

This debate about the entire genetic engineering enterprise that is cross-disciplinary is escalating even more because it involves not only food and other plants but also animals and humans. Yes, genetic engineering is coming to human beings. So far, it is being explored in medical laboratories only for the purpose of eliminating human diseases and other maladies. I think it is inevitable that designer human babies will happen in the future, though it is a ways off. Couples will be able to decided prior to conception what color of hair or color of eyes or whatever they want for their child. I’m writing about it in a book.

But genetically modifying non-edible plants, as with the Glowing Plant Project, seems rather harmless. If anyone achieves making glowing trees that could even come close to replacing streetlights, they surely will be tried on golf courses. The trees would look normal during the daytime, but they would automatically illuminate during the nighttime. Just think of glowing trees lining golf fairways like lightpoles lining streets and maybe even glowing grass. I say, “Let there be light” naturally on the golf course 24/7.

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