First of all, yes, that just sounds gross. It does. Sorry for that. And, I would bet, you are all wondering what that is (well, maybe not Rusty, since he seems to have read all the sci-fi authors whose names start with the letter "B"). But before I get to that, I'm going to jump back to a very famous guy in this series, Isaac Asimov.
In Asimov's book, The Caves of Steel (1953 (as a serial)), as I've said before, the whole planet is just one big city. Being one big city, there's not a lot of land left outside the city and certainly not enough to grow enough food to feed the entire world. Instead of growing crops and raising livestock, the food is grown hydroponically. I'm wishing I had a better memory of what it was exactly (or had the book where I could get to it (but it's in a box somewhere in the garage)), but it was some kind of protein that could be flavored in a variety of ways and formed the basis for the standard diet of the people of Earth. It was food grown in a vat.
I don't really know if this idea precedes Asimov or not, but it was certainly picked up by other sci-fi authors.
In 1963, H. Beam Piper used the idea in his novel Space Viking. The space ships contain hydroponic carniculture vats in which they grow some sort of meat or meat substitute. Protein nonetheless.
In 1970, Frank Herbert's novel Whipping Star introduced us to pseudoflesh.
Even Neuromancer (William Gibson) mentions some sort of meat vats (although, I'm not remembering the details).
The term Yeast-Beast was introduced in David Brin's 1994 short story, "NatuLife." The Yeast-Beast is the device that produces the vat grown meat.
And, yes, I know all of this sounds really gross. Growing meat in a bathtub. Blech.
In vitro meat has been being developed for a couple of decades now. And it was NASA that began the research as a possibility as a source of protein for long-term space voyages. It's also called hydroponic (there's that word again) meat, vat-grown meat, and victimless meat.
The first edible meat was actually produced over a decade ago, and, as of 2008, scientists claim the technology has developed to the point that it's ready to be made available commercially. The only real issue? People are turned off by the idea of eating meat grown in a vat. Well, that, and it's still expensive. Right now, bathtub meat would cost you more than animal meat, but, with the right backing, that might not stay true for very long. And being able to grow meat for consumption in developing nations could save a lot of lives. Currently, there are more than 30 laboratories around the world working on the development of in vitro meat.
As of February of this year, the first hamburger was made from vat grown meat. One of the biggest differences that vat grown meat could have for us is in time: It takes about two years to grow a cow big enough to slaughter to make that hamburger; you can make that same meat in just six weeks in a vat.
They do, however, say there's a slight issue with texture, but they're working on it.
Bonus "Y": Youth Eternal
Yeah, yeah, I know, we've been looking and looking for this for centuries. More than centuries. It's another of those staples of fiction and science fiction, and I'm not even going to go into all of that. I just want to say one thing about it, really:
Many scientists (geneticists) believe that this generation (my generation) will be the last generation on Earth that has to die. They're fairly certain they've identified the gene that causes aging, and they think they can figure out how to turn it off. If they can do that, no one would ever need to die of old age or old age related issues ever again. It's kind of a scary concept. With as many people as we already have on the planet, can you imagine what it would be like if no one ever died?