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Gravity wave breakthrough, The antibiotic pipeline, Microbial waste recycling, Fausto - an AI opera

Gareth Mitchell with colliding black holes, the need for new antibiotics, the ultimate in waste recycling, and an opera written by scientists about AI and immortality.

The gravitational waves produced by two massive black holes colliding have for the first time been detected by three gravitational wave detectors. Professor Sheila Rowan of the University of Glasgow explains the importance of this new three way observation.

The World Health organisation reports that there are too few new candidate antibiotics in the development pipelines to replace those becoming obsolete through the rapid spread of antibiotic resistance. Professor Willem van Shaik of the University of Birmingham and pharma-biotech analyst Dr Jack Scannell discuss where the problems and solutions might lie.

Could bacteria recycle all of our waste? Waste disposal is a growing concern as nations run out of space and ecosystems are increasingly polluted. Microorganisms may hold the key for turning household waste into biodegradable plastic and perhaps one day even into food and basic chemical feedstocks. Hans Vesterhoff, Professor of Systems Biology at Amsterdam University is developing microbial networks with the aim of converting all carbon-based waste into useful or edible stuff.

AI and Opera: Prof Luc Steels, an AI and language researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies of Catalonia is also a composer. He has just had his new opera premiered. With a libretto written by a neuropsychiatrist colleague, the opera 'Fausto' is a re-telling of the Faust story. It explores the dangers and flawed thinking of silicon-based transhumanism. In the opera, the Faust character is a social media-obsessed hipster and Mephistopheles is a malevolent AI in the cloud. In a twist on the original, Fausto trades his body rather than his soul so that he can be uploaded and reunited with his lover in the cloud.

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