Unstable is one of Netflix’s newest series — a father-son comedy starring Rob Lowe as an eccentric biotech innovator named Ellis Dragon, who’s responsible for many world-saving inventions. It also stars John Owen Lowe, Rob Lowe’s real-life son, who plays Ellis’s son, Jackson Dragon.
When asked about the inspiration for the offbeat innovator Ellis Dragon, John Owen Lowe revealed that Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, was the “easy answer.” Lowe suggests that Musk and Dragon are both individuals that have more power (and influence) than they know what to do with.
Besides the quick-witted banter and quirky characters, Unstable has intrigued its audiences with Ellis Dragon’s bizarre inventions, leaving many to wonder if any exist.
What are the real-life examples of Ellis Dragon’s inventions?
One invention that intrigued many viewers was the bruiseless avocado.
Though scientists haven’t completely figured out how to recreate Ellis Dragon’s bruiseless avocado technology (yet), one company has invented avocado time machines that it says can prevent these fruits from browning for at least 10 days. The Natavo process uses steam-generated pressure fluctuations to turn off the enzyme in avocados that causes browning.
Another of Dragon’s technologies isn’t completely fictional: an enzyme that can turn sugarcane into a fully biodegradable plastic-like material.
The Brazilian petrochemical company Braskem claims to have developed the first bio-based plastic produced on a large scale from sugarcane. Though it isn’t fully biodegradable, it’s recyclable and uses less dirty energy sources than traditional plastic.
And lastly, Dragon’s magnum opus project: carbon-capturing concrete.
“It’ll lock up climate-changing gases for over a thousand years and will literally save the world,” explains Dragon’s CFO Anna, played by Sian Clifford.
Companies like Fortera, CarbonCure, and Solidia have all developed cutting-edge technologies that reuse carbon pollution to make concrete. CarbiCrete is a different company that makes cement-free concrete by using a by-product of steel making and reusing carbon pollution.
Why does the technology in a fictitious show matter?
Though they may seem like peculiar creations of a quirky inventor, each of Dragon’s inventions would ultimately benefit the planet in profound ways.
Bruised avocados, along with other foods, get thrown away and decompose in landfills, where it releases nearly 8% of all the world’s heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.
Although it’s best to avoid plastic, bioplastics like sugarcane plastic are a practical alternative that can help reduce our reliance on dirty energy sources. Sugarcane plastic can also benefit the planet because sugarcane crops absorb carbon pollution from the air.
Besides water, concrete is the most used substance on Earth. It’s also arguably the most destructive material on this planet.
Manufacturing cement for concrete creates a lot of carbon pollution — comprising 8% of overall global air pollution, which contributes to the overheating of our planet. Removing this pollution from the air without completely altering the concrete we depend on is a crucial stepping stone to developing and implementing more sustainable alternatives.
And we aren’t too far off from planet-saving technologies similar to those in this fictitious show — from the extraterrestrial-looking and all-electric Tesla Cybertruck to fairy-like pollinator robots.
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