Over the last few years, scientists have turned to a new source to discover statistics about everything from diet to drug usage: your poop. Taking samples from sewers is a fantastic way to find out more about a population, bypassing the difficulty of getting people to answer surveys and peeling back the layers of stigma that prevents people from being honest about their habits. As MIT engineer Carlo Ratti says, “the sewage system is the great aggregator.”
MIT Senseable City LabMIT’s program Underworlds is now taking sewage sampling to a new level, creating a robot named (what else) Luigi that will hang out in sewage pipes and measure the amounts of various chemicals it finds there. This could be hugely helpful, even for real-time events like a disease outbreak.